Ever since vaccines for COVID-19 became available to the general public last winter, there have been a small number of breakthrough cases — incidents of people who were vaccinated getting the virus anyway.

Some people who have resisted vaccination claim that it shows the vaccine isn’t effective and doesn’t protect people from the disease.

That’s not the case at all, said Brady Woodbury, administrator of Asotin County Public Health.

“The purpose of the vaccine was to keep people out of the hospital,” Woodbury said Wednesday. “A lot of people say it’s not successful even though people are getting sick, which pretty much happens with all vaccines.

“(The COVID-19 vaccine) was designed to limit the burden of the disease. They do prevent illness, but they (also) protect people when they do get ill and they’re usually a lot less sick. ... We are not seeing very many people in Asotin County who are vaccinated and are hospitalized. I think that is very telling that the vaccine is effective and is doing what it was designed to do to keep people out of the hospital, not necessarily prevent COVID disease.”

Since the beginning of July, Asotin County has counted 83 breakthrough cases, which may seem like a lot, but Woodbury said it is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of unvaccinated people who are getting sick. And, as health care workers at nearly all hospitals around the region have testified, the vast majority of people who are being hospitalized with the virus have not been vaccinated.

“The Washington Department of Health said breakthrough cases are about 1 per 1,000 people vaccinated,” Woodbury said. “For us it’s a little higher — we have 89 total breakthrough cases, but I don’t know the number of vaccinated people (in the county), so I can’t say the percentage.

“One of the reasons we have more, maybe, (than the state calculation) is because we have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state. So we have a higher percentage of people who are more susceptible to the illness; the disease burden is higher in our county, probably.”

Woodbury said there are various reasons that vaccinated people also may contract COVID-19. Some may have compromised immune systems from cancer treatments or other conditions that make them more susceptible to disease. And, though it’s extremely rare, a few people who have been vaccinated have died from the virus. In Washington, 220 people out of more than 4 million who were vaccinated have died.

“A lot of people who speak out say (these fatalities) were already sick — they didn’t die of COVID; they died with COVID,” Woodbury said. “A lot of these people who died from COVID and had underlying conditions, COVID is probably the reason they passed, even though they had underlying conditions. They did die from COVID and they were vaccinated. But the vaccines are still working, preventing other people who have (health problems) from being hospitalized or dying.”

Woodbury said he thinks the main reason so many people remain resistant to getting the vaccine is because of misinformation they have heard and believed.

“On top of that, it’s become politicized,” he said. “Whether we like it or not, and because of misinformation and the politicization of it, people are refusing (to get vaccinated).

“I really think being vaccinated does a lot more for you than keep you out of the hospital or prevent you from getting COVID,” he said. “It also allows you so you don’t have to be quarantined if (you have had) a close contact. A lot of kids are in school and they’re in close contact. If they’re old enough (and have been vaccinated), they don’t have to miss school and they can stay in school if they’re in close contact.

“People who are vaccinated have that extra protection.”

Hedberg may be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or (208) 983-2326.

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