N.J. data show breakthrough COVID-19 cases are very rare

Thomas W. Munson receives his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Elizabeth Lash

Thomas W. Munson receives his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Elizabeth Lash at a Sayre Health clinic held at Tablenacle Lutheran Church in West Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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New Jersey officials reported Wednesday an additional 247 COVID-19 cases, raising the overall case count to 1,018,495.

Gov. Phil Murphy said the state is “consistently” reporting its lowest number of confirmed cases since last July in “the deepest part of our summer lows.”

The state also reported an additional 14 deaths from the virus, raising the overall toll to 23,631. Officials revised the number of probable COVID-19 deaths to 2,685.

Murphy also noted that the downward trend is also being seen in hospitals across the state. As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, 436 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, including 104 in intensive care and another 60 on ventilators.

“The numbers are so low because we are steadily decreasing the spread of this virus, which means fewer new cases and therefore fewer hospitalizations,” he said, adding that those who are testing positive, being hospitalized or have died from the virus are “now, mostly likely, overwhelmingly those individuals who have not been vaccinated.”

The governor said this was not just limited to New Jersey. Referencing a New York Times story, he pointed out areas of Tennessee and Arizona where vaccination rates hovered around 20%, hospitalizations from COVID increased by about 700%.

“As one of my colleagues said, increasingly this is a pandemic among unvaccinated individuals,” he said.

State officials are restating the importance of getting vaccinated as they released information about “breakthrough cases” in New Jersey.

Between Dec. 15 and April 23, 2.1 million residents were fully vaccinated, according to state data. Health officials say .06% of them, or 1,319 people, tested positive for the virus.

“That means 99.94% of individuals vaccinated did not test positive for COVID-19,” said State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. “This high percentage demonstrates that breakthrough infections are extremely rare.”

The commissioner added that fully vaccinated people had “less severe illness” based on the small number of hospitalizations and deaths.

In addition, Hackensack Meridian Health Network’s Center for Discovery and Innovation has also been following the effectiveness of the vaccine among the network’s staff. Out of 26,000 fully vaccinated health care workers, there were 138 positive COVID cases with no serious illnesses.

Persichilli said the state’s data and Meridian’s study demonstrates the vaccines are effective. However, officials reiterated that the COVID-19 vaccines, like all vaccines, greatly reduce the chances of getting infected and do not completely prevent it.

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