The COVID-19 vaccine is an important tool against the pandemic. However, no vaccine for any disease is 100 percent effective at preventing illness. At DHW, we track cases among Idahoans who have contracted COVID-19 after they are fully vaccinated (i.e. breakthrough cases). Breakthrough cases are expected, but they do not mean the vaccine is ineffective.
Let’s look at the data. One way is to look at the total number of Idaho COVID-19 cases in 2021 and see how many of those are breakthrough cases. In Idaho, there have been 142,655 cases of COVID-19 reported during 2021, of which 13,285 have been breakthrough cases. That means that 9.3 percent of all cases in 2021 have been breakthrough cases. However, looking at the data this way can sometimes be distorted by the number of people vaccinated vs. the number of people not fully vaccinated.
A better way to look at the data is to look at the number of breakthrough cases among those who are fully vaccinated. This is a better measure since it tells you directly, if you get vaccinated, how likely you are to get a breakthrough case.
In Idaho, there are 826,587 people who are fully vaccinated as of Oct 27, 2021, of which 13,285 have experienced a breakthrough case. That means 1.6 percent of fully vaccinated people have experienced a breakthrough case. Or said differently, 98.4 percent of fully vaccinated people haven’t experienced a breakthrough case. I don’t know about you, but I will take those odds any day of the week.
Vaccines are safe and effective
I want to remind everyone again that the COVID-19 vaccines are proven safe and effective. More than 191 million people in the United States and 826,587 in Idaho have been fully vaccinated as of Oct. 27, 2021. (Fully vaccinated includes people who have received two doses of Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine or a single dose of the Janssen vaccine.)
The vaccines are particularly effective against hospitalization and death. That means the benefit of the COVID-19 vaccine is multi-layered. First, it greatly reduces your chances of getting COVID-19 in the first place. But if you do have a breakthrough case, it then further reduces the likelihood that you will be sick enough to have to go to the hospital or die.
Let’s look at the data. If you are fully vaccinated and have a breakthrough case of COVID-19 you are 5 times less likely to go to the hospital and 6 times less likely to die than someone who is not fully vaccinated.
Since May 15, Idahoans who were not fully vaccinated account for:
- 90 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations
- 92 percent of COVID-19 ICU stays
- 86 percent of COVID-19 deaths
You can catch COVID-19 even if you get the vaccine. Nothing is 100 percent effective. However, taking precautions is still the right thing to do for your own health and the health of your family and community. In this case, getting the COVID-19 vaccine greatly reduces the chances that you will catch COVID-19. Even if you do get a breakthrough case, the vaccine further reduces your chances of being hospitalized or dying.
There is another way to think about the vaccine – getting a vaccine is like wearing a seatbelt. You may still be in a car accident, but the seatbelt can protect you from serious injury.
I hope you all have a safe and healthy weekend. Please choose to get vaccinated if you have not done so already.