Are Breakthrough COVID Cases Declining in Massachusetts?

The breakthrough cases represent just a small percentage -- about 1.02% -- of the 4.7 million people who have been fully vaccinated

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Nearly 48,000 fully vaccinated Massachusetts residents have now tested positive for COVID-19 and 371 of them have died, according to the latest state data on breakthrough cases published Tuesday.

The state Department of Public Health has tracked a cumulative 47,929 confirmed coronavirus infections among those fully vaccinated in the state to date.

The breakthrough cases represent just a small percentage -- about 1.02% -- of the 4.7 million people who have been fully vaccinated and the deaths an even smaller percentage -- just 0.008%. But both of those percentages are slightly higher than the previous week's data.

In the last week, 3,431 new breakthrough cases -- infections in people who have been vaccinated -- have been reported. That's down significantly from the previous week's 4,034 cases. And health officials said 138 of the new breakthrough cases resulted in hospitalization, down 10 from the week before. Overall, just 0.03% of vaccinated people have now been hospitalized.

Except for three weeks, the number of new breakthrough cases announced each Tuesday had climbed each week since DPH announced the initial batch of 7,737 breakthrough infections on July 31. Here's a quick look at how many new breakthrough cases have been reported over the past two months:

  • Oct. 19 -- 3,431
  • Oct. 12 -- 4,034
  • Oct. 5 -- 3,741
  • Sept. 28 -- 4,378
  • Sept. 21 -- 4,568
  • Sept. 14 -- 3,919
  • Sept. 7 -- 4,415
  • Aug. 31 -- 3,704
  • Aug. 24 -- 3,098
  • Aug. 17 -- 2,672
  • Aug. 10 -- 4,568

Despite the surge of different variants, faith among Boston-based doctors in the efficacy of COVID vaccines hasn't wavered.

"The fact that vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing COVID-related death doesn't mean they're 0% effective at preventing COVID-related death," Dr. Shira Doron of Tufts Medical Center said. "Some people will die of COVID who have been fully vaccinated, but the vaccine prevents death at least tenfold over being unvaccinated, according to every recent study, and probably more than tenfold. You are much more likely to die of COVID if you're unvaccinated."

"To me, the argument that because some people still die after getting the vaccine is like saying, 'Well, we know 35,000 to 40,000 people die in auto accidents. Most of them are wearing seatbelts. So why should I wear a seatbelt?'" Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes of Brigham and Women's Hospital said. "It makes no sense. You reduce tenfold your risk of death with the vaccine, and why you wouldn't take advantage of that reduction in risk is something I have trouble coming to grips with."

Wednesday's Department of Public Health report pushed the state's cumulative confirmed COVID-19 caseload to 783,533 since the start of the pandemic and its death toll to 18,485.

Overall case numbers have been on the rise in Massachusetts and nationwide for weeks as the highly infectious delta variant spreads, including among those who are fully vaccinated, but health experts have repeatedly stressed that vaccinations reduce the risk of serious injury or death in the rare breakthrough cases.

It's OK to mix and match vaccines when scheduling your booster shot, Dr. John Torres explains. And he answers your other coronavirus questions about Colin Powell and police officers dying from the virus.

The majority of the coronavirus cases the state is now dealing with are in unvaccinated individuals.

Boston Medical Center's Dr. Davidson Hamer said almost every patient his hospital has with COVID right now is unvaccinated, except for one very immunocompromised individual who had a breakthrough case.

"I think that remains a very high risk for having severe disease, hospitalization, and unfortunately, death," he said.

If you still need to be vaccinated, here's a tool to find the closest vaccination provider to your home.

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