St. Louis County COVID breakthrough increasing; unvaccinated dominate hospitalizations


(Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is likely to blame for an increase in reported COVID cases among vaccinated individuals, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health reported Wednesday.

Dr. Faisal Khan, acting director of the county health department, said infection is still uncommon for fully vaccinated people but the sudden change in cases among the group warranted a public health advisory.

Data from the county health department shows 35 residents who were vaccinated got COVID-19 in March 2021. That number jumped to 213 vaccinated residents in June 2021.

Despite the uptick in those cases, hospitals in the regional pandemic task force still report the overwhelming majority of patients they see are unvaccinated.

In many of these instances, a vaccinated person is exposed to the virus from someone in the same household who isn’t vaccinated. According to the county health department, “this suggests that continuous, unmasked exposure to the virus in large quantities may strain the protection that the vaccine provides.”

Dr. Khan says people should realize vaccines do not offer 100% protection or a full guarantee against catching COVID-19, especially if a person is repeatedly exposed to the virus. Vaccines aren’t cures.

However, while the vaccine “is not an impenetrable shield,” it still offers the best protection against the virus. When someone who is vaccinated catches COVID, Khan says that person gets less sick, rarely requires hospitalization, and almost never will die from the virus.

In April and May, the county health department reported vaccinated individuals were 86% less likely to catch COVID than those who were unvaccinated.

To that end, St. Louis County and City issued a joint public health advisory on July 1 recommending residents wear masks indoors, whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. This is because the overall vaccination rate remains low and you won’t always know the vaccination status of those around you.

Medical experts say at least 70% to 80% of people need immunity to minimize spread within the general population. The safest way to be immunized is through vaccination.

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