Of the more than 3 million Missouri residents who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 54,825 have contracted the virus, and 655 have died from it, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which added the data point to its information dashboard Friday. That means these cases, known as breakthrough cases, occurred in only 2 percent of all vaccinated Missourians, and deaths from breakthrough cases occurred in 0.02 percent.
Dr. Ann-Elizabeth Mohart, chief medical officer at Mercy Hospital Washington, said she was extremely pleased with the data.
“Overall, this data is extremely compelling as far as how effective these vaccines are,” she said.
Mohart said that 2 percent and 0.02 percent were “incredibly small numbers.”
“You are talking about, in reality, very, very, very few cases,” she said. “And when we do see these breakthrough cases, they tend to be in individuals who don’t have the ability to mount a really healthy immune system” because of other risk factors such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, cancer or other preexisting conditions.
“Why does (a breakthough infection) even happen? No vaccine is 100 percent effective,” she said. “But this vaccine that we have, especially the mRNA vaccines, are among the most effective vaccines that have ever been developed. So they are very, very effective at preventing infection, but a vaccine relies on a person’s immune system to mount a really effective response to it. Because certain people have weakened immune systems, even though they get a really excellent vaccine, they simply do not have the immune cells, and their bodies cannot produce those to mount a really strong response.”
She said the data gave her hope “that if we just continue our vaccination efforts, we absolutely can beat this virus.”
“No one should be scared by the breakthrough data,” she said. “It is really reassuring and compelling. If anything, the take-home message should be that these vaccines are saving lives and preventing people from going to the hospital.”
This news comes as 57.1 percent of Missourians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 50.5 percent have been fully vaccinated, according to DHSS. In Franklin County, 51.3 percent of residents have received at least one dose, and 47.4 percent are fully vaccinated, according to DHSS.
The county administered 2,408 vaccines from Nov. 10-17, according to DHSS. Of those, 1,451 were booster shots.
That number is expected to increase. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots for all adults Friday. Previously, booster shots had been authorized only for adults with an increased risk of complications from COVID-19 or for those who worked in high-risk environments.
Mohart was excited about the new authorization and encourages any eligible person to get a booster.
“We do know there is some data with coronaviruses and other viruses that immunity can kind of wane over time,” she said. “As you get further and further out from an infection like influenza or coronavirus, the immune system kind of begins to forget about it a little bit, and then these boosters give it a reminder.”
The Franklin County Health Department reported five confirmed COVID-19 deaths and one probable COVID-19 death Friday. These deaths took place in October, but it often takes weeks for the department to confirm cause of death. Those deaths bring the county’s confirmed death toll from the pandemic to 219 people and the probable death count to 36 people.
Those who died were a 66-year-old man from Grubville, a 66-year-old woman from Villa Ridge, a 76-year-old man from St. Clair, a 64-year-old man from Sullivan, a 65-year-old woman from Gerald and an 80-year-old woman from Union.
From Nov. 13-19, 194 people contracted COVID-19 in Franklin County, according to a weekly update from the health department. That’s an increase from last week, when there were 129 new cases.
“It does not surprise me that we’re having a little bit of an uptick here because we’re moving into winter,” Mohart said. “People are now more and more indoors. We’re headed into peak respiratory viral season.”
To date, there have been 13,367 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Franklin County, with an additional 3,447 cases listed as probable.
The positivity rate also has increased. From Nov. 13-19, the positivity rate — the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — in the county was 12 percent, according to the health department update. Last week, that number was 10.8 percent.
Four people are hospitalized and in isolation for COVID-19, according the update. That’s higher than last week, when only one person was hospitalized and in isolation.