An analysis by the New Jersey Department of Health reported on June 9 showed 1,319 “breakthrough cases” between mid-December and April or instances of people getting sick with COVID-19, even after getting the vaccine as the state races toward its self-imposed vaccination and reopening goals.
But, as noted by New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, that makes up just a .06% of the 4.2 million New Jerseyans who’ve been fully vaccinated over the past six months.
“That means 99.4% of individuals vaccinated did not test positive for COVID-19,” Persichilli said during a regular COVID-19 press briefing on June 9, adding that the data suggests that breakthrough cases are “extremely rare.”
What’s more, hospitalizations and fatalities directly tied to COVID-19 are increasingly rare, Persichilli said. State health data show that 92 people with the COVID-19 vaccine have gone to the hospital, but only 30 of those cases were directly tied to COVID-19.
New Jersey Medical Director Dr. Ed Lifshitz said that means a patient with a broken hip who happened to test positive for COVID-19 and have gotten the vaccine would be counted in the data. He suggested that the actual count of “breakthrough cases” could be higher, given that New Jerseyans might not be exhibiting symptoms, or have mild enough symptoms to not justify getting a test.
Fourteen people with the vaccine have since passed away, but only seven of those fatalities were directly tied to COVID-19, Persichilli said.
“We know there is a direct correlation between our steadily increasing vaccination numbers and our steadily decreasing case counts and hospitalizations,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
The COVID-19 vaccine is widely seen as a vital step for meaningfully and permanently returning to pre-pandemic life. Restrictions across the board have been lifted in the state over the past month, with nearly 4.3 million New Jersey adults having gotten the shot, and the spread of the virus cratering.
A final tranche of reopenings went into effect the morning of June 4. Masks and social distancing are no longer required for indoor settings for anyone fully vaccinated.
The Murphy administration’s self-imposed goals call for fully vaccinating 4.7 million adults by the end of this month, after which the focus will turn to children below the ages of 16, and those efforts include incentives, perks and direct community outreach to get that final half a million arms.
Lifshitz said the breakthrough rates among vaccinated New Jerseyans were so low that he could not give an accurate count of whether new cases were prevalent with the recipient of any particular vaccine.
With infection rates, transmission, daily case counts and total hospitalizations all cratering, Murphy last week signed a bill and accompanying order lifting the COVID-19 public health emergency. Those would keep in place a key set of wartime powers to navigate the state through the remainder of the pandemic.