SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Over 70% of eligible Utahns have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 61.4% fully vaccinated.
While many Utahns have received their COVID-19 vaccine, health officials are reporting some are still testing positive for the virus. These breakthrough cases are not a surprise, though.
“I think the perception that vaccines don’t work and that because we’re seeing breakthroughs that the vaccine strategy was faulty in some ways,” says Dr. Brandon Webb, an Intermountain Healthcare infectious diseases physician. “Over time as we increase the number of fully vaccinated individuals, we expect to see a matching increase in the number of breakthrough infections.”
Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Taki May says breakthrough cases occur as viruses mutate.
“It is part of what they are and that’s why we need the different flu shot every year.”
According to the Utah Department of Health, there have been nearly 11,200 breakthrough cases reported statewide. Of those, 611 have been hospitalized and 58 died. But, according to Utah Governor Spencer Cox, this data doesn’t tell the whole story.
In a Friday Twitter thread, Governor Cox outlined data from Intermountain Healthcare covering the last 30 days “is stunning.”
He says Intermountain has treated 339 COVID-19 ICU patients over a 30 day period. Of those, 297, or 88%, were unvaccinated, meaning 42 were vaccinated.
“That’s very persuasive and right in line with projections,” Gov. Cox remarks. “But digging deeper the data gets much more persuasive.”
He continues, saying of the 42 vaccinated patients, 39 were 50-years-old and older and 38 had significant co-morbidities, which are underlying health conditions making them more vulnerable to COVID-19. According to Gov. Cox, “this is the exact population that we would expect to have less vaccine immunity.”
Among the 297 unvaccinated people, Gov. Cox reports 127 were under the age of 50 and 116 had no co-morbidities. The average age for vaccinated ICU patients is 69 while the average age among unvaccinated was 52.
“In other words, these were VERY healthy people that we would not expect to see – completely preventable for them,” Gov. Cox says.
With the vaccinated ICU patients, Gov. Cox reports the average co-morbidity scores of 5.8, meaning 5.8 separate preexisting medical conditions. He says these patients “were very sick to begin with.” Among the unvaccinated patients, that score was 1.8.
“Our hospitals are overflowing with young and healthy people. It doesn’t have to be that way. Please get vaccinated,” Gov. Cox adds.
The youngest Utahns, those between the ages of 12 and 18, are the least vaccinated, according to UDOH. They make up just over 14% of Utah’s eligible population. Just over 54% of this age group have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 42.6% are fully vaccinated.
The next oldest age group, 19 to 29-years-old, is 60.9% partially vaccinated and 51.3% fully vaccinated.