At least 79 people have died with COVID-19 in Massachusetts even though they were fully vaccinated, according to a newspaper report, as the more contagious Delta variant continues to spread.
The so-called breakthrough cases — cases where fully vaccinated individuals test positive for coronavirus — have so far been rare, but are possible.
As of June 19, a total of 3,907 breakthrough cases had been reported to the state Department of Public Health, the Boston Herald reported Tuesday. Of those, 71 people died and 268 people were hospitalized.
Through Saturday, The Boston Globe reported those numbers had risen to 4,450 confirmed breakthrough cases, 79 deaths and 303 hospitalizations.
“All available data continue to support that all 3 vaccines used in the US are highly protective against severe disease and death from all known variants of COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated,” the DPH said in a statement to the Globe, while adding that "we expect to have some vaccine breakthrough cases.”
Massachusetts health officials on Tuesday reported that a total of 4,278,111 Bay State residents have been fully vaccinated.
Nationwide, more than 4,100 fully vaccinated people were hospitalized or died with coronavirus as of June 25, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To date, 159.7 million people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.
The vaccines are highly effective but don't block every infection and efficacy rates decrease slightly for variants like alpha and delta. It is unclear, however, if the reported breakthrough cases were caused by variants.
The CDC stopped counting breakthrough infections in May. Instead, federal health officials are only tracking vaccinated patients who end up in the hospital or those who die from COVID-19.
Though the metrics remain near their recorded low points in Massachusetts, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in Massachusetts as the Delta variant continues to spread.
The more contagious Delta variant is taking over as the dominant coronavirus strain in Massachusetts, Boston-based infectious disease experts have said, and is now the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S.
Officials in Provincetown, Massachusetts, are sounding the alarm after a handful of new COVID-19 cases "overwhelmingly" affecting fully vaccinated individuals were reported in the Cape Cod tourist community in recent days.
First identified in India and now in over 100 countries, studies have shown that the Delta variant spreads approximately 225% faster than the original strain of the virus. The strain has been "steadily rising" in Massachusetts since it was found in April.