Arizona’s top health official stresses COVID vaccines are still the ‘best protecting device’
PHOENIX — Monday’s death of Colin Powell is putting a spotlight on breakthrough COVID-19 cases, which Arizona’s top health official said are extremely rare and added the vaccine is still the most effective way to fight off the virus.
Of the more than 3.7 million fully vaccinated people in Arizona, there have been 41,837 confirmed vaccine breakthrough cases. And of those cases, 284 have involved deaths, according to preliminary data by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The breakthrough cases include those who were diagnosed at least 14 days after they were fully vaccinated. The vast majority are from people who got the Pfizer vaccine at 61%. Moderna’s comes in second at 28%, followed by 11% for those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Don Herrington, interim state health director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that breakthrough cases do happen but that the vaccine is still the “primary protecting device that we have.”
“We suggest that, unless there’s a medical condition that prevents you from getting vaccinated, that you do get vaccinated,” he said.
Herrington also noted Powell is part of a rare group of people who’ve died from COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
Powell had been treated in recent years for multiple myeloma, which suppressed his immune system and his body’s ability to respond well to vaccines. His age, 84, also made him vulnerable to the virus.
“Factors like that contribute greatly as opposed to the general public on getting the disease or dying from it,” Herrington said.
He added it’s natural for people to ask about the effectiveness of the vaccines given Powell’s passing. Locally, the news about vaccinated members of the Arizona Cardinals organization testing positive for COVID-19 has also raised questions.
“The great thing about the vaccine – besides the fact that it’s our best protecting device – is that even if you happen to have a breakthrough case, the chances are you are much less likely to have a severe case,” Herrington said.
“It might be asymptomatic,” he continued. “It might be where you just have minor symptoms. Or even if you have symptoms, it might keep you out of the hospital when otherwise you might end up there without the vaccine.”
State data shows 87.1% of those hospitalized and 87.5% of deaths in Arizona for COVID-19 in August weren’t fully vaccinated.