More than 54,000 fully vaccinated Massachusetts residents have now tested positive for COVID-19 and 438 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 54,199 confirmed coronavirus infections among those fully vaccinated in the state to date.
The breakthrough cases represent just a small percentage -- about 1.1% -- of the 4.7 million people who have been fully vaccinated and the deaths an even smaller percentage -- just 0.009%.
In the last week, 3,192 new breakthrough cases -- infections in people who have been vaccinated -- have been reported. That's up from 3,078 the previous week after two weeks of declining cases. Health officials said 106 of the new breakthrough cases resulted in hospitalization, down 15 from the week before. Overall, just 0.04% of vaccinated people have now been hospitalized.
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Except for four 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. But until this week, the numbers had been on the decline since Oct. 12. Here's a quick look at how many new breakthrough cases have been reported over the past two months:
- Nov. 2 -- 3,192
- Oct. 26 -- 3,078
- 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.
"I think we have to be careful about being overly concerned about breakthrough infections," said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
He said he wouldn't worry about minor fluctuations or week-to-week trends either in total or breakthrough infections. What would worry him is if he saw the number of cases rapidly accelerating or even doubling from week to week, like they did at the start of the pandemic.
"The risk of getting hospitalized and dying of COVID is many times greater if you're unvaccinated than if you're vaccinated," he said.
Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Linas of Boston University cautioned that rising numbers of breakthrough infections are to be expected: "There's a bit of a mathematical relationship. As more and more people are vaccinated, the proportion of cases that we see that are breakthrough cases of course goes up."
Thursday's Department of Public Health report pushed the state's cumulative confirmed COVID-19 caseload since the start of the pandemic above 800,000 to 801,567, and its death toll to 18, 671.
Massachusetts' COVID metrics, tracked on the Department of Public Health's interactive coronavirus dashboard, dashboard, are far lower than they were in spring, and while all of the major ones have risen from their lowest points, some have dipped in recent weeks.
The majority of the coronavirus cases the state is now dealing with are in unvaccinated individuals.
Boston Medical Center's Dr. Davidson Hamer said recently that 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. Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and appointments are available in Massachusetts.