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Small Fraction Of Ohioans Have Contracted COVID-19 Despite Vaccinations

OVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the U.S. are highly effective in preventing COVID-19, health officials say.
OVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the U.S. are highly effective in preventing COVID-19, health officials say.

Of the nearly 1.9 million Ohioans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 34 individuals have since contracted the virus, according to the Ohio Department of Health. None of the individuals died from the illness, but five were reportedly hospitalized.

The individuals were fully vaccinated, meaning they received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infections, and even more effective in preventing severe illness and death, health officials said.

“As we have heard when these vaccines received FDA authorization, their efficacy rates vary, as did their efficacy studies,” Health Department spokesperson Alicia Shoults wrote in an email to ideastream. “There is a small chance with each vaccine, much like there is with a flu shot, that despite being vaccinated, you may still contract COVID-19.”

When local health officials are made aware of someone who contracted COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, they send the virus specimen to state labs to sequence the virus sample and monitor it for changes and mutations, Shoults said.

Health officials worldwide are concerned that variant strains of the virus, such as the B.1.1.7 variant found in Ohio, could evade antibodies developed from the vaccines.

Cuyahoga County health department officials are not aware of anyone locally who contracted COVID-19 despite receiving the vaccine but will likely utilize ongoing contact tracing to begin tracking this data, said Kevin Brennan, spokesperson for the county’s board of health.

“They’re going to make sure they start tracking this so they know what the data can tell us,” Brennan said.

Currently, contact tracers call county residents who tested positive for COVID-19 to gather information about their symptoms and who they may have been around. Going forward, they may also ask if the individual has been vaccinated, he said.

The board of health is awaiting additional guidance from the state about how to best track this data, Brennan added.

In clinical trials, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were found to have more than 90 percent efficacy in preventing COVID-19. The vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which Ohio began distributing at the beginning of March, reported 66 percent efficacy.

More than 3 million Ohioans have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccines and almost 2 million are considered fully vaccinated, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

In a study released Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had 90% efficacy in the U.S. since distribution began in December.

The study is the first ‘real-world’ look at how well the vaccines can prevent COVID-19 infection outside of the clinical trials, officials said.

What questions do you still have about COVID-19 and Ohio's response? Ask below and WOSU may answer as part of our series A Year Of COVID.

Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

Anna joined ideastream in 2019, where she reports on health news for WCPN and WVIZ in Cleveland. She has also served as an associate producer for NewsDepth. Before that, Anna was a 2019 Carnegie-Knight News21 fellow at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.