Pennsylvania reports low number of ‘breakthrough’ COVID-19 cases

LANCASTER, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s report on COVID-19 post-vaccination cases, commonly known as “breakthrough cases,” shows the overwhelming majority of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state are among the unvaccinated.

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Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Health talked about the state’s post-vaccination COVID-19 cases at a press conference on Tuesday.

Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam was joined by Dr. Michael Ripchinski, Chief Clinical Officer for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, to discuss what hospitals are currently experiencing as the daily case counts exceed 4,000 statewide.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines post-vaccination cases as individuals who are fully vaccinated but test positive for COVID-19 more than 14 days after they complete their full one-dose or two-dose vaccination series. They are also referred to as vaccine breakthrough cases.

The Pennsylvania online report shows that since January 2021:

  • 97 percent of COVID-19-related deaths were in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. Among a total of 6,472 COVID-19-related deaths identified in Pennsylvania in 2021, the latest data shows 213, or three percent, post-vaccination deaths identified. Cumulative death incidence among the unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated was 7.9 times as high as the death incidence among the fully vaccinated.
  • 95 percent of reported hospitalizations with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis/cause of admission were in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. Among a total of 34,468 hospitalizations with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis/cause of admission reported in Pennsylvania, 1,820 were reported to have occurred in fully vaccinated people. These figures account for data from 55 percent of all hospitals and 69 percent of acute care hospitals in Pennsylvania, representing approximately 80 percent of acute care beds in the state.
  • 94 percent of reported COVID-19 cases were in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. Among a total of 639,729 positive cases, there have been 35,389, or six percent, identified post-vaccination cases. Cumulative case incidence among the unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated was 7.1 times as high as the case incidence among the fully vaccinated.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania is surging to more than 3,000 per day, hospitals are extremely overwhelmed.

Pittsburgh native Jacob Dumont, his sister, brother and brother-in-law were all vaccinated against COVID-19 and all ended up with breakthrough cases. However, he says that the vaccine helped keep his symptoms to a minimum.

“Really bad runny nose, the worst runny nose you’ve ever had … you couldn’t sleep,” Dumont said. “I was down and back within a few days. I think that’s the goal of the vaccine, and it kept me and all of us out of the hospital.”

On Monday, UPMC reported an increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, with nearly 440 patients across the system.

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A UPMC spokesperson said over the past several weeks, doctors have seen as many as 19 times more unvaccinated patients ages 50 and younger at its hospitals.

Pennsylvania’s post-vaccination data is posted online and can be viewed by clicking HERE.