Coronavirus

Colorado COVID Breakthroughs Much Higher Than Originally Estimated

9News via YouTube file photo
Until recently, COVID-19 statistics regarding so-called breakthroughs — cases, hospitalizations and deaths related to vaccinated people — were hard to come by in Colorado. But earlier this month, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment launched a new vaccine breakthrough site that offers the public an opportunity to see how much protection immunization offers — and figures from today, September 29, are eye-opening.

Early on, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were said to be around 95 percent effective at preventing infection and hospitalization, with the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson version landing at approximately 75 percent, and their collective efficacy at averting death was touted at 100 percent. But after the more dangerous and transmissible Delta variant of the original COVID strain became dominant, these estimates haven't held up in real-world Colorado, where around 23 percent of COVID cases, 17 percent of hospitalizations and 14.4 percent of deaths are occurring among vaccinated people. Moreover, the effectiveness of the three major vaccines has proven to be lower than advertised in Colorado — although the protective umbrella provided by one of the vaccines is proving to be better than the other two.

Vaccinated people are definitely much less susceptible to COVID-19 than those who haven't gotten dosed. The CDPHE currently estimates that fully inoculated individuals are 5.9 times less likely to die from the disease, 4.8 times less likely to be hospitalized, and 3.3 times less likely to "become a COVID case." But inoculations have not made people impervious to the virus.

These are the latest numbers of vaccinated and unvaccinated cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Colorado, supplemented by the median age of affected individuals. Breakthrough cases are most common for young adults and middle-aged folks, while breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths are exceedingly rare for anyone under the age of seventy.
108.8 vaccinated cases per 100,000 in week of September 12 (median age 45)
360.6 unvaccinated cases per 100,000 in week of September 12 (median age 32)
3.4 vaccinated hospitalizations per 100,000 for the week of September 5 (median age 73)
16.6 unvaccinated hospitalizations per 100,000 for the week of September 5 (median age 57)
8.1 vaccinated deaths due to COVID-19 per 1,000,000 in July (median age 79)
48.1 unvaccinated deaths due to COVID-19 per 1,000,000 in July (median age 76)
The percentage of total vaccinated cases by gender shows that women are considerably more prone to breakthroughs than are men. Overall in the state, 54.9 percent of the people with breakthrough cases are female, exceeding their population percentage, while 43.2 percent are attributed to males; an additional 1.9 percent is listed as "unknown." Moreover, breakthrough cases have been steadily rising over the past several months. For the week of June 13, the vaccinated case rate stood at 7.8 per 100,000, compared to 108.8 for the week of September 12.

CDPHE data also breaks down the breakthrough cases by race and ethnicity. Given Colorado's racial makeup, it's no surprise that the overwhelming majority of these cases have been among Caucasians, labeled "white/non-Hispanic," followed by Hispanic, unknown, Black or African American, people of multiple races (excluding Hispanic), Asians, others, American Indians or Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders.

Here's the rundown:
74.5 percent white/non-Hispanic of total vaccinated cases, 69.5 percent of total vaccinated individuals (exceeds percentage of population)
13.2 percent Hispanic, all races of total vaccinated cases, 11.5 percent of total vaccinated individuals (exceeds percentage of population)
4.2 percent unknown of total vaccinated cases, 8.7 percent of total vaccinated individuals
2.4 percent of Black or African American of total vaccinated cases, 3.1 percent of total vaccinated individuals
2.2 percent of Multiple, non-Hispanic of total vaccinated cases, 2.8 percent of total vaccinated individuals
2.1 percent Asian of total vaccinated cases, 3.0 percent of total vaccinated individuals
0.8 percent of other total vaccinated cases, 0.6 percent of total vaccinated individuals
0.6 percent American Indian or Alaska Native of total vaccinated cases, 0.6 percent of total vaccinated individuals
0.3 percent Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander of total vaccinated cases, 0.2 percent of total vaccinated individuals
The division of total vaccinated cases by age shows that people between 30 and 39 are the most likely to experience a breakthrough infection, followed by the 40-49 demographic. The numbers hover around 15 percent for other Coloradans younger than 70, with the exception of tweens and young teens, whose breakthrough infection rate is much lower. Those older than 70 are less likely to have a breakthrough case — and that's a good thing, since the impact upon them can be the most severe.

Continue for the details:
Ages 30-39: 20.7 percent of total vaccinated cases, 16.7 percent of total vaccinated population (exceeds percentage of population)
Ages 40-49. 17.7 percent of total vaccinated cases, 15.1 percent of total vaccinated population (exceeds percentage of population)
Ages 20-29: 15.2 percent of total vaccinated cases, 14.0 percent of total vaccinated population (exceeds percentage of population)
Ages 50-59: 14.6 percent of total vaccinated cases, 15.1 percent of total vaccinated population
Ages 60-69: 14.0 percent of total vaccinated cases, 15.5 percent of total vaccinated population
Ages 70-79: 9.0 percent of total vaccinated cases, 9.9 percent of total vaccinated population
Ages 80 and above: 5.1 percent of total vaccinated cases, 4.3 percent of total vaccinated population
Ages 12-17: 3.5 percent of total vaccinated cases, 9.3 percent of total vaccinated population
The breakthrough rate for hospitalizations has tripled since spring; it stood at 1.0 percent for the week of May 2 but registered at 3.4 percent for the week of September 5. However, the rate for vaccinated deaths has actually declined slightly from May, when it stood at 8.4 percent, to July, the most recent month available, when it came in at 8.1 percent.

Regarding COVID-19 breakthrough cases associated with specific vaccines, Moderna is the top performer, with around 19 percent. Next comes Pfizer at just over 24 percent and Janssen at 32 percent, as seen in numbers for the month of September:
PFIZER

116.6
Pfizer Vaccinated Rate of COVID-19
2,034 Pfizer Vaccinated out of 1,744,486 Pfizer vaccinated people.

MODERNA

85.3
Moderna Vaccinated Rate of COVID-19
1,047 Moderna Vaccinated out of 1,227,069 Moderna vaccinated people.

JANSSEN

172.6
Janssen Vaccinated Rate of COVID-19
407 Janssen Vaccinated out of 235,766 Janssen vaccinated people.
During a press conference on September 28, Governor Jared Polis once again said that the current COVID-19 scenario in Colorado is largely a "pandemic of the unvaccinated." But he also encouraged Coloradans — whether they're vaccinated or not — to wear a mask at public indoor places and to keep engaging in social distancing where possible.

The most recent breakthrough information demonstrates why he's still delivering this advice.

This post has been updated to include a reference to the Delta variant.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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