Susan Cook receives the Moderna vaccine at the Torrington Area Health District. Yehyun Kim /
A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is given to a senior citizen at a clinic at St. Bernard Church in Vernon. Cloe Poisson /

The state Department of Public Health said Friday that Connecticut has recorded 242 breakthrough COVID-19 infections among the 1.47 million people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus, meaning they caught the disease after receiving both doses of an mRNA vaccine or a single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

That means 0.02% of those fully vaccinated in Connecticut have contracted COVID-19. Of the 242 people, 159, or 65.7%, were women, and 58 were residents of congregate settings such as nursing homes or assisted living facilities. One hundred and nine, or 45%, were asymptomatic carriers.

Thirty-two of those people have been hospitalized and three have died.

“The main takeaway is that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, and cases of infection after a person is fully vaccinated are very rare,” Deidre Gifford, the state’s acting public health commissioner, said in a statement Friday afternoon. “The best protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 is vaccination, and I strongly urge all eligible Connecticut residents who have not yet gotten vaccinated to do so.”

All three individuals who have died in Connecticut have had underlying conditions. Preliminary research suggests that the vaccines are no less effective in individuals with multiple co-morbidities, said Yale epidemiologist Saad Omer, who has studied the real-world behavior of COVID vaccines in Texas. His findings have yet to be peer-reviewed.

Vaccine effectiveness is a measure of the relative reduction in risk. Though the vaccines may be just as effective in individuals with underlying conditions, the fact that their baseline risk is high suggests that they would be over-represented in breakthrough cases, Omer said.

At the national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded 9,245 breakthrough infections from 46 U.S. states and territories as of April 26, the most recent data available. Of those, 5,827, or 63%, were women and 2,525, or 27%, were asymptomatic carriers. Nine percent, or 835 people, have been hospitalized and 132 people died.

The CDC data rely on voluntary reporting from state health departments, which may not be complete, the agency said.

“It is important to note that reported vaccine breakthrough cases will represent an undercount,” the CDC added. “Also not all real-world breakthrough cases will be identified because of lack of testing.”

Precise breakthrough infection rates may be hard to come by, but “nevertheless, it is reasonable to say qualitatively that the rate is low,” Omer said. While epidemiologists will continue to monitor the data as the virus mutates, at present “this is not a cause for concern.”

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

Kasturi was CT Mirror’s data reporter. She is a May 2020 graduate of the Columbia Journalism School’s master’s program in data journalism and holds a degree in comparative literature from Brown University, where she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. Prior to joining CT Mirror, Kasturi interned for publications in India.

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