The state Department of Health is investigating reports of people in the state, including four in Skagit County, who tested positive for COVID-19 more than two weeks after they were fully vaccinated.
Scientists call these “vaccine breakthrough” cases, which officials said are expected with any vaccine.
Out of 1 million fully vaccinated people in the state, epidemiologists report evidence of 102 breakthrough cases in 18 counties since Feb. 1, state officials said Tuesday in a news release. That represents .01 percent of vaccinated people in Washington.
The four breakthrough cases identified in Skagit County all are asymptomatic or very mild.
County Health Officer Howard Leibrand said the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, and this is exactly what he would expect in people who are fully vaccinated.
“We should be reassured that there’s such a small number of these,” he said.
He said it’s likely there are more cases such as these out in the community that haven’t been identified, because people with mild or no symptoms aren’t likely to get tested.
None of the county’s four cases are connected to each other, he said.
County spokesperson Laura Han said these cases shouldn’t dissuade anyone from getting a vaccine. In addition to reducing one’s chance of catching COVID-19, these vaccines are extremely effective at reducing the severity of illness.
“We’re still seeing an incredibly high efficacy rate,” she said.
Statewide, the majority of those with breakthrough cases of COVID-19 experienced only mild symptoms, if any, officials said.
However, since Feb, 1, eight people with vaccine breakthrough have been hospitalized and officials are investigating potential vaccine breakthrough cases in which two people died, officials said. Both patients were older than 80 and had underlying health issues, officials said.
“It is important to remember that every vaccine on the market right now prevents severe disease and death in most cases,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, the state’s Secretary of Health. “People should still get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.”
The Department of Health confirms a breakthrough case with a positive PCR test or Antigen test in a person more than two weeks after they have received their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
— Skagit Valley Herald reporter Brandon Stone contributed to this story.