PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - A recent report featured prominently in The New York Times suggested breakthrough infections of COVID-19 are much more rare than current statistics show.
The Times report stated the odds of a fully vaccinated person contracting COVID-19 on a given day are 1 in 5,000, citing statistics from King County, WA and other metro areas around the country.
Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington's State Epidemiologist cast some doubt on the reliability of the Times' calculations.
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"I think those are numbers that are manipulated that don't take into the context of everyone who's asymptomatic," said Lindquist.
Lindquist said data collected by the state show Washington has had more than 22,000 breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals, which accounts for less than 1% of all vaccinated people in the state.
But Dr. Bill Messer, an infectious disease expert at OHSU, was more supportive of the 1 in 5,000 probability calculation, calling it a "fair attempt," though stopping short of calling it accurate.
"One of the assumptions behind that rough number 1/5000 is that every day we all face the same risk of exposure day after day after day and that we really know isn't the case," said Messer.
Numbers from Oregon and Washington show vaccinated people account for between seven and ten percent of COVID-19 cases, but Messer said that doesn't mean vaccinated people have that same chance of contracting a breakthrough case.
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"Breakthrough infections are much less common than the numbers suggest because we cannot count the number of people who are protected by their vaccines when they're exposed," said Messer.
Despite a rise in breakthrough infections recently because of the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, both Messer and Lindquist said the vaccines remain effective against the virus, especially at preventing serious illness.
OHA’s most recent update on COVID-19 breakthrough cases, released Thursday, found that 80.7% of the 13,798 reported COVID-19 cases between August 29 and September 4 occurred in people who were unvaccinated. There were 2,657 breakthrough cases, accounting for 19.3% of the week’s cases.
There were 21 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,394.
OHA reported 2,437 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 294,392.