By Isabel Van Brugen
Nearly 4,000 people in Massachusetts who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have contracted the virus, adding to the growing number of breakthrough cases nationwide.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, as of June 12, there were 3,791 people who tested positive for COVID-19 among the 3.7 million fully vaccinated people in the state, accounting for roughly one in 1,000 vaccinated individuals.
“We’re learning that many of the breakthrough infections are asymptomatic or they’re very mild and brief in duration,” said Boston University infectious diseases specialist Davidson Hamer, the Boston Herald reported. “The viral load is not very high.”
“Breakthroughs are expected, and we need to better understand who’s at risk and whether people who have a breakthrough can transmit the virus to others,” Hamer added. “In some cases, they’ll be shedding such low levels of the virus and won’t be transmitting to others.”
So-called breakthrough cases refer to cases appearing two or more weeks after a person’s final shot. That’s primarily the second Pfizer or Moderna dose, but can be the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Vaccine breakthrough cases are expected,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website. “COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. However, no vaccines are 100 percent effective at preventing illness. There will be a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19.”
The health agency added, “There is some evidence that vaccination may make illness less severe.”
The CDC said last month that through April 30, 10,262 breakthrough infections were reported from 46 U.S. states and territories to the agency.
Of the cases, more than six in 10 occurred in females, with the median patient age being 58, according to a new report from the CDC, which stopped counting breakthrough infections as of May 1, except for those that cause hospitalization or death.
Approximately 10 percent of the patients required hospital care, and 160, or about 1.5 percent, died.
Data indicate that about three in 10 hospitalized patients were admitted for a reason unrelated to COVID-19 or with no symptoms.
The median age of those who died after getting vaccinated was 82 years. Twenty-eight deaths were pegged to a cause unrelated to COVID-19 or occurred in patients who displayed no symptoms.
Sequencing data were available for 555 of the breakthrough cases. Over 60 percent were identified as stemming from variants, including the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in the United Kingdom.
The CDC meanwhile has stopped investigating breakthrough infections unless individuals are hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
Through April 30, about 101 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19. As of Monday, that figure stands at 150 million people, according to the CDC.