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Philadelphia health officials released detailed data on breakthrough COVID cases Wednesday along with the monthly enumeration of deaths and deaths among the city’s fully vaccinated population.
What it shows: Breakthrough cases and hospitalizations are rising, but vaccines remain extremely effective in reducing the overall number of serious infections in Philly.
About 1 in 5 new coronavirus cases in August were among fully vaccinated residents, according to the data. Fully vaccinated also accounted for approximately 20% of the nearly 340 admissions that month due to the virus and 14% of deaths. But as seen elsewhere in the country, vaccinated people still account for a small fraction of COVID-related deaths.
Overall, Philadelphia saw only one-tenth of the total number of deaths in August than it did than January.
Only 20 of the 498 people who died of coronavirus-related causes between April and August were fully vaccinated with an interval of 2 to 6 deaths per month. This figure is in line with data released by officials this week, showing that between January and August, only 3% of deaths across the country occurred among vaccinated people.
“The total number of hospitalizations, vaccinations and deaths has really dropped,” said Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole. “I think our high vaccination rate is the reason our hospitals and ICUs are not as overwhelmed as they are elsewhere.”
“Vaccine breakthrough means that a virus has broken the protection that a vaccine provides in some way,” she added. “It is important to note that all vaccines have breakthrough cases. ”
The increase in both cases and hospital admissions in August may be due to both the vaccine’s declining effectiveness over time as well as the increased transmission of the delta variant – or both, Garrow said on behalf of urban epidemiologists.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has been analyzing groundbreaking data for several weeks as it attempts to combat new variants as well as widespread misinformation about vaccines.
Breakthrough cases are statistically expected to become more common as a larger proportion of the population is vaccinated, Garrow said. By mid-September, more than 80% of Philadelphia’s adult population had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 68% had been fully vaccinated.
As vaccinations increased, the death toll dropped. The city experienced only 38 deaths in total in August against 354 in January this year.
“Only 3.5% of the people who have been sick enough to go to the hospital [this year] have been vaccinated, ”said Bettigole. “These vaccines work. In each month, the vast majority of those who tested positive were hospitalized and died, not vaccinated. ”
The number of cases among both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents fell sharply during the summer, but the increase since August is still worrying, especially as the hot weather subsides and more people retire indoors.
In January-March, when vaccines were scarce, the data show fewer than 100 combined breakthrough cases – less than a third of a percentage point (0.3%) of the more than 35,000 registered infections – but only a small fraction of the city’s population had even received a dose of the vaccine at that time.
In April, the number jumped slightly: about 300 new cases were diagnosed in unvaccinated residents. It was still less than 2% of the total cases that month.
And in August, by contrast, the breakthrough rate grew by more than 1,600, accounting for more than 20% of cases that month, as well as the higher percentage of admissions.
Health officials warned against reading too closely into August’s higher hospitalization among vaccinated people, as data contrasting with ICU hospitalizations and short-term stays were not immediately available to help determine the severity of these cases, spokesman James said. Garrow.
A study suggests that hospitalization across the country may be inflated due to patients being admitted for other reasons, while also showing signs of COVID.
Federal health officials are currently weighing evidence of the declining effect of vaccines over time as they build a plan to roll out booster shots – particularly among recipients of the Pfizer vaccine.
Israel began administering booster shots to residents 60 and older in July and recently expanded the program to people over 30. Data on that program is expected to be released this week, according to Politico, “shows that the ability of the Pfizer vaccine to prevent serious illness and hospitalization diminish over time. ”
When it comes to booster shots, health officials say they will follow guidance from the Biden administration.
The White House had originally proposed a timeline to roll out booster shots to certain classes of people nationwide by the end of September, though regulators appear to be pumping the brakes on that level. Some people have already started taking on getting their first booster shots before approval times, and local health officials are warning residents against this.