State identifies at least 3 ‘breakthrough’ COVID cases

Published: Mar. 13, 2021 at 12:03 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 13, 2021 at 12:05 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state has identified at least three residents who have contracted COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, in what they characterized as “breakthrough” cases.

Officials noted that all three cases experienced mild to no symptoms and are not known to have transmitted the virus to anyone else.

That, they said, is proof that the vaccines did their job.

“The vaccines are preventing serious illness as they are designed to do,” a Department of Health spokesperson said, in a statement.

He added that, “A vaccine with 95% efficacy will protect 95 out of 100 people. This means 5% may still contract COVID if exposed.”

However, that statement reflects a common misconception of the COVID efficacy rate.

The efficacy rate for the two-dose COVID vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) actually means that in clinical trials the likelihood of contracting the disease declined by 95% for fully vaccinated participants.

An article in the journal Lancet estimates that means roughly .05% of those vaccinated would be expected to contract COVID after being fully vaccinated, not 5%.

Still, the takeaway is that being fully vaccinated does not mean you have zero chance of contracting COVID. Health officials said that’s why taking precautions is still important for everyone.

The Health Department addressed the issue after noting in its latest COVID cluster report that a fully vaccinated health care worker on Oahu contracted COVID-19 after traveling to the mainland.

Officials said the person received the final vaccine shot in early January, then traveled to several cities on the mainland about a month later.

Before returning to Hawaii, the person and a travel companion took a pre-travel test.

Both individuals tested positive, but neither developed symptoms and they did not spread the virus to close contacts, DOH said.

“The vaccine is another lawyer of protection, and while it’s really important and a very effective layer of protection, it’s just another layer of protection, it’s not 100 percent,” said DOH Director Dr. Elizabeth Char.

Authorities stressed that “breakthrough” cases are to be expected and aren’t cause for concern.

“The vaccinations are extraordinarily effective,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said.

Part of the urgency to get people vaccinated is coming from Washington D.C. after President Biden wants everyone vaccine-eligible by May 1st.

“After this long hard year, I will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, but we mark our independence from this virus,” he said.

On Monday, the state will open up vaccinations for Phase 1C.

Green said no documentation will be required for people with serious health conditions to get their vaccines.

“The vast majority of people will be honorable about it and I also think it’s going to be pretty bad juju if you lie about having cancer to get your vaccine. I don’t think people want to do that,” said Green.

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