Some Utahns experiencing breakthrough cases of COVID-19, doctors say it’s expected

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an increase in breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated Americans. While these cases account for a small percentage of infection, Utah doctors say breakthroughs are expected.

Daily, thousands of Utahns are getting the COVID-19 vaccine, according to data shown on the Utah Department of Health’s website.

While more people are protecting themselves – and others – from the highly transmissible Delta variant, the CDC reports breakthrough cases are on the rise.

“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,” said Dr. Brandon Webb, an Intermountain Healthcare infectious diseases physician.

Breakthrough cases are not unexpected, but the CDC, along with health experts continue to say no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness.  

“Over time as we increase the number of fully vaccinated individuals, we expect to see a matching increase in the number of breakthrough infections,” Dr. Webb said.

More than 1.5 million Utahns are fully vaccinated against the virus; and of those, UDOH reports just over 9,000 people are experiencing or have experienced a breakthrough infection.

While a relatively small percentage of cases, University of Utah Health’s Dr. Emily Spivak said studies are beginning to shed light on the topic.  

“There is some evidence from other countries and some of this vaccine effectiveness data suggesting that people who were vaccinated either 6 to 8 months ago are having higher rates of infection than those who were vaccinated a little bit later,” Dr. Spivak said.

And research is showing that those who are fully vaccinated are likely to have less severe symptoms

“It is unlikely, that if you got any of these vaccines, you’re very unlikely to experience the worst kind of outcomes from a breakthrough case – especially if you’re immunocompromised,” said Stephen Goldstein, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the U of U School of Medicine.

Of the state’s breakthrough cases, UDOH reports 518 people have been hospitalized, and 48 people have died, as of Friday.

The health department reports those who are unvaccinated remain at a greater risk of hospitalization and death.

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