Breakthrough infections, hospitalizations of vaccinated doesn’t mean vaccines ineffective: experts

As fully-vaccinated individuals make up an increasing percentage of new infections and hospitalization rates, experts are responding to misconceptions about vaccine efficacy.

Posts on Twitter and Facebook opposing vaccines and public health measures have been sharing that vaccines are not working because of how many vaccinated people are in the raw data counts released by the province.

According to data from a Dec. 23 update from Alberta Health, 80 per cent of new cases are among the fully vaccinated.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health addressed this during a media briefing on Dec. 23, as 90 per cent of those age 12 and up in the province has had at least one dose of vaccine.

“Just by sheer math the vast majority of our population is at least partially immunized and therefor you would expect that we would have a greater proportion of cases in those with vaccine,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Unvaccinated people account for 60 per cent of patients In Alberta hospitals.

Fully vaccinated people make up 38 per cent.

However the raw numbers also do not take into account the pool of fully vaccinated Albertans is much larger than the unvaccinated population.

Per capita data also demonstrates vaccine effectiveness; in the last 120 days per 100,000 fully vaccinated Albertans, 41 have been hospitalized.

The rate of unvaccinated people in hospital jumps to 930 per 100 thousand people, which is nearly 23 times higher.

Hinshaw added that the omicron variant of concern is spreading more rapidly compared with delta, even among those who have immunity post infection or two doses of vaccine.

“What we know is that third dose of vaccine is much more important with omicron than it was with delta,” she said before adding that two doses of vaccine is still providing good protection from severe outcomes.

COMPARING APPLES TO APPLES

Scientists say it’s important to compare appropriate data, and the rate of infection is important rather than a total number.

“For every 100,000 people that we see vaccinated if we compare that in the vaccinated group, and in the unvaccinated group, that’s the number that we need to compare in each of those age groups,” said Ryan Imgrund, a COVID-19 biostatistician.

“(When we do that) we find that without a doubt, vaccines offers superior protection against ICU utilization hospitalization and also mortality.”

He added vaccines offer 40 to 60 times the amount of protection from hospitalization compared to those that have not received any vaccine, when comparing the same age group of population.

“In our society right now, we’ve become used to highlighting raw numbers, and we don’t actually convert things out to rates,” said Imgrund. “We don’t actually break it down by age group. When you break things down by age group, and you actually compare apples to apples.”

However, there is emerging data about vaccine waning immunity.

According to Science Table, the COVID-19 Advisory group for Ontario: the protection against infection, hospital and ICU admission from two doses of vaccine was at 90 per cent in early November, but has sunk to close to 15 per cent as of Tuesday.

Public health experts say there is an increased need for booster shots to be rolled out as quickly as possible.

This is a developing story that will be updated throughout the day

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