Vaccine breakthrough cases rise in Washington

Vaccine breakthrough cases are rising in Washington state, happening more often than they were earlier this year. But experts said that doesn’t mean the vaccine is failing.

Just as people had hoped to relax this summer, the much more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading fast here in Washington.

“I recently found out that I ended up hugging someone who is positive with COVID. I got tested afterward, and I tested negative. That was a little concerning to me,” said Michelle Mitardy in downtown Seattle.

As of Monday, 71% of people 12 and over in Washington state have been vaccinated, according to the State Department of Health. But there is evidence that what is happening in other states is happening here, and the percentage of cases that break through the vaccine’s protection is rising, as seen in Snohomish County.

“In May, fewer than 5% of cases were among vaccinated individuals. And, in July, now that the delta’s strain is the overwhelmingly dominant, virus in the community, now 20% of cases in July were among vaccinated people,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, director of the Snohomish County Health District.

“It’s pretty concerning to me. I’ve been vaccinated both doses. And I am understanding that we are going to need a third vaccination this fall,” said Debbie Williams, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement about booster shots.

Dr. Deborah Fuller is a microbiologist who creates vaccines at the University of Washington.

“It’s not necessarily surprising that we’re seeing an increasing number of breakthrough infections,” she said.

Fuller said the vaccines still keep the vast majority of those with breakthrough infections out of the hospital.

“The important thing, really, about vaccines is to protect you from going to the hospital, to protect you from severe disease. And we’re still seeing that our vaccines are having that impact, even on this new delta variant,” she said.

Richard Watkines said he’s been vaccinated. “My understanding is the vaccine was never going to be a cure anyway. It just reduces the symptoms really for most people. If we’re not all vaccinated, it’s still going to spread regardless,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Public Health Seattle-King County said the county sees that 20% of its COVID-19 cases are among those fully vaccinated. But it stated the more important numbers are that someone who isn’t fully vaccinated is 10 times more likely to test positive and 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19.