ATLANTA - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that out of the 75 million people in the United States who have been fully vaccinated, the agency has identified a comparatively small group of approximately 5,800 vaccinated individuals who have contracted COVID-19.
The agency said 74 people (1%) who experienced what the CDC is calling "breakthrough cases" have died. But the CDC said the findings only further prove the effectiveness of vaccines against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 565,000 Americans.
The CDC says "breakthrough" infections make up a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated.
Harris County Public Health in Texas confirmed three ‘breakthrough cases’ of COVID-19 earlier this week.
"The reason you get the vaccine is not so you don’t get COVID," said Dr. Joseph Varon, Chief Medical Officer at United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC). "The reason why you get the vaccine is so you don’t get the (severe) COVID where you go to the COVID unit and could die."
In Arizona, health officials investigated 298 confirmed "breakthrough infections," FOX 10 Phoenix reported on Thursday.
"While no vaccine is 100% effective, we continue to encourage all Arizonans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines are a safe and effective public health tool, critical to stopping the spread of illness and preventing severe disease and death from COVID-19," said Arizona Department of Health official Holly Poynter.
"To date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in case demographics or vaccine characteristics," a CDC spokesperson said in an email to FOX Television Stations.
"COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. All of the available vaccines have been proven effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. However, like is seen with other vaccines, we expect thousands of vaccine breakthrough cases will occur even though the vaccine is working as expected," the spokesperson added.
While "breakthrough" cases were reported among people of all ages currently eligible for vaccination, more than 40% of the specific infections reported by the CDC were found in people 60 years and older.
Females made up 65% of the breakthrough infections, and 29% were reported as asymptomatic.
Despite the CDC’s guidance that fully-vaccinated people can gather without masks, the agency urges people who have been fully vaccinated to "keep taking precautions in public places, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing their hands often."