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September 14, 2021

Pennsylvania's data on 'breakthrough' cases underscores benefits of COVID-19 vaccines, officials say

Unvaccinated people make up 95% of hospitalizations and 97% of deaths caused by the coronavirus

Prevention COVID-19
COVID-19 breakthrough cases Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

'Breakthrough' infections have made up just 6% of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania since the beginning of the year, state health officials say. Above, Stephen Zorzi, of Pittman, New Jersey, gets a COVID-19 vaccine before a Flyers game.

Fully vaccinated people have been seven times less likely to contract the coronavirus and eight times less likely to die of COVID-19 than unvaccinated people since the start of the year, according to newly-released data on so-called "breakthrough" cases in Pennsylvania. 

The data — which reflect national figures released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — underscore the vaccines' abilities to prevent severe illnesses. 

Unvaccinated people made up 94% of the 639,729 COVID-19 cases recorded between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7, the data show. Fully vaccinated people accounted for just 35,389 cases. 

"No vaccine has 100% efficacy, so post-vaccination cases are to be expected," acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said Tuesday at a press conference in Lancaster County. "It's important to also remember that COVID-19 vaccines were developed to help people stay out of the hospital and avoid death — not just positive cases."

Unvaccinated people made up 95% of the hospitalizations in the state, and 97% of COVID-related deaths. Just 213 of the 6,472 total deaths reported in 2021 were among vaccinated people. The hospitalization data was pulled from 55% of hospitals, but accounted for 69% of the state's acute care hospitals and 80% of the state's total hospital beds. 

"With more than 7 million people vaccinated, the data is clear. The vaccines are safe and effective in preventing severe illness," Beam said. "My hope is that this data encourages everyone who has not yet been vaccinated to speak to their doctor about getting the vaccine as soon as possible."

State health officials did not include a breakdown showing the effect of the more contagious delta variant, which now accounts for 99% of COVID-19 cases nationwide.  

Data released last week by the CDC showed cases, hospitalizations and deaths are more common among fully vaccinated people since the delta variant began surging over the summer. But vaccinated people still were five times less likely to become infected by delta and 10 times less likely to be hospitalized or die. 

According to the CDC, 65% of eligible Pennsylvania residents are fully vaccinated. Nearly 82% have at least received one dose. 

Watch the full press conference here:


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