Virus Outbreak

Idaho has had relatively few cases of fully vaccinated people developing COVID-19 infection, in line with national trends.

Mostly good news has emerged about COVID-19 vaccines. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they get their final recommended COVID-19 vaccine, either two doses for the shots by Pfizer and Moderna or one for the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. Infections are rare, but not impossible, for fully vaccinated people, reports confirmed.

Idaho state health officials said just under 97 instances of so-called breakthrough cases had been identified in the state. In eastern Idaho, officials disclosed 13 cases locally.

What’s more common is infections after receiving only one dose. In eastern Idaho, 199 people had reportedly contracted coronavirus after receiving their first dose, according to district public health researcher James Corbett. State numbers said about 32,000 people in eastern Idaho — around a fifth of the region’s population age 16 and up — are fully vaccinated; about 18,300 people have received their first dose of a two-shot series.

“You can see that while the vaccine is not perfect, it is still very good,” Corbett said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate people to have 80 percent immunity two weeks after receiving the first dose, but officials don’t know how long that immunity lasts. That’s compared to 90 percent immunity that the CDC’s latest study confirmed for the two-dose mRNA shots from Pfizer and Moderna.

Local hospitals have reportedly admitted some partially and fully vaccinated people for COVID-19.

“Five of the patients (Idaho Falls Community Hospital) has have had at least one round of their vaccinations, and even two that have had both of their vaccinations prior to diagnosis of COVID,” David Hoffenberg, administrator at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, told officials.

Hoffenberg said it’s a real-world reminder that “though the vaccination is effective, it’s not 100 percent effective.” People should wear masks, social distance and avoid interpreting vaccination “as a free pass to go completely normal — until we have herd immunity,” Hoffenberg said.

Relative to the total number of residents who have received the final dose in a COVID-19 vaccine series, post-vaccination infections are rare. Statewide, breakthrough cases are less than 0.1 percent of the quarter-million Idahoans fully vaccinated, according to Kathryn Turner, the state’s deputy public health researcher.

Half of the breakthrough cases reported to the state were asymptomatic, meaning they didn’t seem ill, Turner told reporters. Among the fully vaccinated people who became ill, 80 percent had mild or moderate symptoms, Turner said.

Three cases in people with conditions that put them at high risk for severe COVID-19 complications resulted in hospitalization, Turner said. No breakthrough cases in Idaho led to death. Many caused mild symptoms.

“Because no vaccine is 100 percent effective, we did expect that we would see some instances of people being exposed to (and getting ill from) the virus after being vaccinated,” Turner said.