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COVID-19 Breakthrough Cases Rare, But Now Rising in W. Va.

A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

A new tab has been added to the state’s go-to COVID-19 online portal: breakthrough cases. This is a case that occurs when someone who is vaccinated catches the virus.

As of Wednesday, 2,302 breakthrough cases have been reported in West Virginia, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. That makes up 1.3 percent of total cases. So far 53 vaccinated West Virginians have died of COVID-19. That’s 1.8 percent of total deaths.

While all age groups are experiencing breakthrough cases, the DHHR said these deaths are occurring among those with serious health problems and those over 65 years old.

Health experts have always expected rare breakthrough cases. No vaccine is 100 percent effective. But variants can cause the efficacy of vaccines to slightly drop, according to several international studies, resulting in more breakthrough cases. Vaccines manufacturers have said the same.

That's been true with the delta variant in West Virginia. Since the state reported its first delta cases six weeks ago, breakthrough cases have almost tripled. The DHHR told West Virginia Public Broadcasting on Wednesday that 833 vaccinated people had contracted COVID-19 as of July 1.

Gov. Jim Justice and his COVID-19 panel continue to stress the importance of getting a vaccine. Almost all of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. State coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh said vaccinated people are 25 times less likely to end up in the hospital with a COVID-19 infection than those who are not vaccinated.

“Vaccines are made to protect people from very severe consequences,” Marsh said. “People that are fully vaccinated don’t go to the hospital, they don’t go to the ICU, and they don’t die of that exposure.”

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