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What you need to know about the risks of COVID breakthrough cases

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 9:27 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The high-profile death of Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance has sparked questions about how at-risk vaccinated individuals are of getting the virus and how sick they could get.

It is happening, but we wanted to take a closer look at the likelihood of those breakthrough cases.

“Took the Pfizer dose,” said Steve Frederick. “My last dose was on 4/16. And thought... I could conquer the world now.”

Steve Frederick’s family all got sick with COVID just after arriving in Florida for vacation. Steve felt bad for six days before going to the ER. He was put in ICU on the 19th and not discharged till the 28th.

“Had I not had the vaccine, I could not... I would not be doing this interview,” he described. “I want to emphasize and tell people like me, who may not have been so serious about it, that it is serious. Get the vaccine. If you’ve been vaccinated, still take precautions. You’re not totally immune.”

He’s right.

The vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective. But the numbers show the vaccines are overall holding up to the virus. From the start of the year to Thursday, only 1% of Mississippi cases were breakthrough. Five percent of those that were hospitalized had been vaccinated. And 2% of the deaths.

Snapshot of January 1,2021-August 4
Snapshot of January 1,2021-August 4(MSDH)

The breakthroughs have been more common in the last month.

Snapshot from July 8-August 4
Snapshot from July 8-August 4(MSDH)

Dr. Laura Miller says she has seen some in her clinic.

“Almost all of them have some underlying issue, whether that’s diabetes, whether it’s pregnancy, they also all had high levels of exposure to unvaccinated positives, hours riding in a car, teaching Bible school together, those types of things,” described Miller. “And again, they’ve all done well.”

Steve Frederick is diabetic and has heart issues — both putting him at a higher risk of a breakthrough. Dr. Justin Turner points this out to those who may be vaccinated and anxious from hearing about these kinds of cases.

“We don’t want you to be fearful,” noted Turner. “We want to be careful. Okay? So, if you have even just mild sinus symptoms that are congestion and things that you don’t think are COVID... guess what? A lot of those patients, it is COVID. Because you’ve been vaccinated, you may not have high fevers, and you may not feel super, super safe. It may just be some nasal drainage. Please go and get tested.”

The risk of breakthrough deaths? The numbers tell the story. Look at the comparison below. In the 65+ age range, 41 individuals were vaccinated and died versus 1,805 who were not.

Most deaths are among unvaccinated.
Most deaths are among unvaccinated.(MSDH)

We did place a request for the breakdown of data on which vaccine those breakthrough cases, hospitalizations are deaths had received. Communication Director Liz Sharlot provided the following information:

“For the vaccine breakthrough cases that have been reported to MSDH and for which vaccine type is available, 64% received Pfizer, 28% received Moderna, and the remaining 8% received Johnson and Johnson. It should be noted that the majority of vaccinations administered in Mississippi have been Pfizer.”

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