Story at a glance

  • Breakthrough COVID-19 infections in Massachusetts have led to 80 deaths and account for more than 5,000 reported cases.
  • The number of breakthrough cases in the state increased by 716 in one week.
  • Nationally, as of July 19, there have been 5,914 people with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infection who were hospitalized or died

Breakthrough COVID-19 infections in Massachusetts have led to 80 deaths and account for more than 5,000 reported cases, according to public health data. 

The number of breakthrough cases in the state increased by 716 in one week, with one new death reported, according to data analyzed by CBS 4. Statewide, there were a total of 5,166 cases through July 17.  

Breakthrough infections have led to 329 hospitalizations in the state despite representing 0.1 percent of new cases. 

Nationally, as of July 19, there have been 5,914 patients with COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough infection who were hospitalized or died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. However, no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people,” according to the CDC. “There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19.”


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Richard Ellison of UMass Memorial told CBS4 that the delta variant is likely the source of the surging cases, which have shown a 14-day change of more than 300 percent. 

“It’s more likely to get a breakthrough infection if you’ve been exposed to delta,” Ellison said.

The delta coronavirus variant first discovered in India accounts for nearly 83 percent of new coronavirus cases nationwide, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told lawmakers at a Senate hearing Tuesday. 

White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci explained further at the Tuesday hearing that the delta variant is “so formidable” because it is capable of “transmitting efficiently from human to human in an extraordinary manner, well beyond any of the other variants that we’ve experienced, up to now.”

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Paul Sax, clinical director of the infectious disease clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, acknowledged to CBS4 the uptick in cases across Massachusetts but argued the severity of cases is lessened in those who have received a vaccine. 

“We are seeing an increase in cases. Fortunately, we’re much better off as far as vaccine uptake goes, which means a lot of the cases we’re seeing here in Massachusetts are very mild because cases are much milder among people who get COVID after the vaccine,” Sax told the outlet. 

Approximately 63 percent of Massachusetts residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 72 percent have received at least one dose. 

Update: This story was updated on July 23, 2021 at 3:30 pm ET with new numbers on national breakthrough infections. 


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Published on Jul 22, 2021