A new addition to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services statewide COVID-19 dashboard finds that vaccination remains a strong defense against the virus, and that older age and health co-morbidities are strongly correlated with “breakthrough infections.”
The new data identifies COVID-19 breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated. The analysis is the result of a partnership between the Missouri Hospital Association’s Hospital Industry Data Institute and DHSS, which allows cross-referencing of HIDI’s individual patient hospital records with DHSS vaccination status data to understand vaccination status, hospitalization, and mortality.
A person is considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks after the series of vaccinations is complete. The main goal of the vaccines was to decrease the severity of illnesses leading to hospitalizations and deaths, and it was never assumed they would prevent 100% of infections. Becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 (a virus that causes COVID-19) after being fully vaccinated is termed a breakthrough infection and is still relatively rare. Among those who have been fully vaccinated, just 2% went on to develop an infection upon exposure, based on data reported to DHSS. And among the fully vaccinated Missourians, 0.02% died from COVID-19.
“This data reaffirms what we have been saying for nearly a year. COVID vaccines work very well to prevent hospitalizations and death,” said Donald Kauerauf, Director of DHSS. “The vaccines continue to be an effective tool to protect Missourians from serious illness. This new data being released by DHSS also highlights the importance of receiving boosters when eligible, especially for those of higher risk due to age or health concerns who may not have as strong of an immune response following vaccinations.”
The MHA has closely partnered with DHSS since March 2020 on data analyses involving hospitalized patients.
“These data validate those breakthrough infections among the vaccinated population requiring hospitalization or resulting in mortality are rare,” said Jon D. Doolittle, MHA President, and CEO. “Where breakthrough is occurring and resulting in hospitalization or death, it is largely among individuals who — through a combination of age and illness — are more likely to have a poor immune response or are susceptible from compromised overall health. This new information is yet another validation that vaccination is essential, and further indicates that continued precautions to avoid infection should be taken.”
Additionally, data displaying information about SARS-CoV-2 reinfections has been added to the dashboard. Reinfection refers to someone who has tested positive for the virus, recovered, and tested positive again after 90 days or more.
“Even if you had COVID-19 before, I strongly encourage you to discuss getting vaccinated with your healthcare provider,” said Kauerauf. “Studies performed at the national level support that being vaccinated after having COVID-19 provides better, more consistent protection than disease-induced immunity alone.”
Prior to this update, each “case” on the dashboard represented an individual Missourian. Now, the total count of cases will represent individual infections among Missourians rather than Missourians who have been infected.
More than 6,300 individuals have tested positive for the virus, recovered, and then tested positive again more than 90 days later.
“It is important for everyone to understand the potential for serious extended complications following infection, referred to as long- COVID,” said Kauerauf. “Thankfully, Missourians ages 5 and older can now get vaccinated and greatly decrease their chances of getting COVID-19 and prevent these serious long-term health impacts. Getting vaccinated to protect yourself and your family and friends is the perfect gift for the upcoming holiday season.”
An additional grouping of cases and deaths will also be displayed on the dashboard due to recent updates to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definitions of “probable” cases and deaths. Previously, the dashboard displayed both confirmed and probable cases–probable meaning the individuals had a positive antigen (not PCR) test. Probable cases now also include epidemiologically linked cases, meaning people who meet clinical criteria and were in close contact with a confirmed or probable case but did not have a confirmed positive test.
Similarly, probable deaths were added to the dashboard. These represent individuals who were positive by antigen testing and were determined to be a COVID-19 death or individuals who were identified through the vital records death certificate with no associated positive laboratory test.
“The dashboard enhancements released this week were a natural evolution of the data we now have available on the virus and further define the importance of getting vaccinated,” said Kauerauf. “We will continue to be as transparent and accurate as possible with all of the information we have available for Missourians so they can be confident they are getting the facts. With the upcoming holidays where family and friends are gathering, the data released through the dashboard makes it clear the value of initiating and completing your COVID-19 vaccination series.”