Despite breakthrough cases and deaths, Utah doctors continue to push vaccination

Coronavirus Updates
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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Acknowledging the deaths of three vaccinated individuals in breakthrough cases of COVID-19, doctors from Intermountain Healthcare are saddened but remain steadfast in their stance: vaccines work.

Three of the 15 deaths from over the weekend reported by the Utah Department of Health were attributed to fully vaccinated people, as stated by an Intermountain spokesperson. To date, the UDOH has reported 15 such deaths out of a population of over 1.4 million who are more than 14 days post full vaccination.

“Obviously it’s very sad to see any deaths from COVID, particularly sad to see that in individuals who took the measures to prevent their disease,” Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease expert at Intermountain Healthcare stated.

Vento continued to state the reality is that certain individuals who have compromised immune systems for a number of reasons will be more susceptible to any effects of the virus. The infectibility of the emerging Delta variant can exacerbate the problem.

Still, getting vaccinated is an important safety measure, Vento said, using a medical metaphor.

“It’s like a castle,” he similized. “The more troops and soldiers you have, the more things you have, the least likely you are to get a lot of damage to your castle. You want to have as many layers of protection as possible.”

The numbers indicate that the likelihood of a vaccinated person dying from COVID-19 is extremely thin. A ratio of 15 deaths to 1,456,892 fully vaccinated Utahns results in a percentage of 0.00103. Case counts from July 31 show that 703 of the 788 new case counts in the state were credited to the unvaccinated population.

According to doctors, that’s an indication that the vaccines are saving lives and preventing severe cases of COVID-19 that can ultimately result in death.

After collectively struggling through the peak of the virus from the summer to 2020 to spring 2021, Vento says we all would have been “clamoring” for a vaccine then. Now that we have it, although it isn’t 100% successful in his words, it’s an “incredible gift” in the fight against the virus.

Getting more folks vaccinated while continuing to push to bring back mask-wearing and a bit of social distancing could put an end to what has been a nearly 18-month long debacle, Vento states.

“We can prevent the vast majority, if not all infections if we did all of those measures.”

It would be beneficial for the long term, as well as the short term, Vento implores. It’s important to consider the impact this summer spike in cases is having on the healthcare workers. One registered nurse at Intermountain Hospital, Sean Talley, called the uptick in hospitalizations a “gut punch,” when speaking to ABC4 TV’s Jason Nguyen on Monday.

As it stands, Utah has 395 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated. The number is expected to eclipse 400 at some point this week.

Fearing continued death and strain on his co-workers at the hospital, Vento is asking residents to continue to get vaccinated, as Utah’s rate sits currently at just 65% with at least one dose and 52.5% fully vaccinated.

“Most importantly, let’s stop people from dying, and let’s stop people from coming into the hospitals and overwhelming our healthcare team.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Utah had experienced five COVID-19 deaths over the weekend. That number is actually 15, as listed in another article. ABC4 regrets this error.

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