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Breakthrough COVID-19 cases like Chris Paul’s are extremely rare

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Although Phoenix Suns star Chris Paul reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in a high-profile case despite being fully vaccinated, such breakthrough infections are extremely rare in Arizona.

Only around 2,000 COVID-19 cases have been documented among the approximately 3 million people fully vaccinated in the state, the Arizona Department of Health Services told KTAR News 92.3 FM in an email Monday.

Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association and former ADHS director, told KTAR News on Tuesday the vaccines are performing better than advertised.

“That’s like 99-point-something percent effective,” he said. “The real-world experience has even been better than that 95% number that we’ve heard about so much from the clinical trials.”

Of the 2,095 vaccinated individuals who tested positive, 1,275 were reached for follow-up, ADHS spokesman Steve Elliott said. Of them, 214 were hospitalized and 13 died, “though it isn’t clear at this point what role COVID-19 played in those deaths,” he added.

ADHS tweeted Wednesday that 16,910 total cases of COVID-19 were documented in May, with 95.4% of the individuals not fully vaccinated.

Humble acknowledged that more breakthrough cases have occurred than been documented because not every infection causes symptoms or leads to testing or treatment.

Regardless, he said, “Truthfully, this is fantastic data. This shows how incredibly effective these vaccines are, not just at saving lives and keeping people out of the hospital, but preventing them from ever being infected with this virus once they’re vaccinated.”

By contrast, Humble said flu vaccines range from 45%-65% effective, depending on the year.

“You don’t hear anybody complaining that much about the flu vaccine being ineffective,” he said.

The Suns confirmed Wednesday that Paul was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols without saying why. John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports reported that the veteran point guard tested positive for COVID-19 even though he received the Pfizer vaccine in February.

It’s unknown whether the All-NBA second-teamer has been symptomatic and how long he’ll have to sit out. The Suns have reached the Western Conference Finals, which will start Sunday or Tuesday depending on how long the semifinal series between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers lasts.

As of Wednesday morning, 888,005 cases of COVID-19 have been documented in Arizona since the start of the pandemic, with 17,791 deaths.

According to the ADHS COVID-19 dashboard, 6,220,506 vaccine doses have been administered in the state, with 3,468,999 people (48.3% of the state’s population) having received at least one shot and 3,018,287 people fully vaccinated.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore contributed to this report.

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