PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - The Oregon Health Authority reported Thursday there were 168 breakthrough COVID-19 cases and three deaths.
"They may be sick, they may not be sick but if they have a positive test at least two weeks after they’ve completed their vaccination series, we consider them a breakthrough case," Dr. Paul Cieslak, a Senior Health Advisor at the OHA, said.
Now, the OHA is reminding Oregonians COVID vaccines are highly effective against the virus - but not 100%. Cieslak said these cases are possible, but not likely.
"This is a pretty uncommon event," Cieslak said.
Going into the vaccination rollout, the CDC reported Pfizer is 95% effective, Moderna is 94.1% effective, and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is 66.3% effective. So, while there's still a chance for you to get the virus after being vaccinated, getting the vaccine significantly lowers your risk for severe complications, hospitalization, or death.
"That is reassuring because the protection is so high, but we know those numbers because some people were not protected in those trials," Dr. William Messer, an assistant professor at OHSU, said.
"It’s a probability thing. It’s possible to get COVID-19 even if you’ve been vaccinated but it’s much much less likely. We think you’re 10 times as likely to get it if you haven’t been vaccinated," Cieslak said. "The higher the effectiveness of the vaccine, the less likely you should be to see a breakthrough case, but we are going to see them with all of the vaccines because none of them are perfect and there’s a lot of virus circulating out there."
According to the OHA's vaccine dashboard, 824,299 Oregonians have been fully vaccinated. The 168 breakthrough cases make up just .02% of those. The three deaths make up .0004%.
Dr. William Messer, an assistant professor of Medicine and Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at OHSU, said those numbers are on par with what he anticipated.
"You vaccinate 700 to 800,000 people. Not all of them are being exposed to COVID, only a small number are being exposed and having their vaccine challenged, if you like, or tested, by COVID exposure. So, it’s hard to know but I would say the numbers are not surprising and what I would have expected," Messer said.
The OHA's press release detailing the breakthrough cases says, "eleven percent of the vaccine breakthrough cases were hospitalized within the 30 days following their positive test, and most occurred in people older than 65 or with underlying health conditions."
FOX 12 asked Cieslak if there are any specific groups that are more at-risk to contract COVID-19 after being vaccinated. He said it's too early to tell and that percentage in the press release doesn't necessarily mean those over 65 are more at-risk.
"We’re doing a lot of testing in long term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living - we’re going to be disproportionately finding people in the elderly populations," he said.