In North Dakota, health officials have identified 354 advanced infections among 264,447 people who have been completely vaccinated, including the deaths of six people over the age of 70.
“That’s why it’s so important that everyone in the community get vaccinated, so we can protect the most vulnerable,” said Molly Howell, director of immunization for the North Dakota Department of Health. “The less COVID-19 circulates in the community, the fewer cases, hospitalizations and deaths there will be.”
Minnesota health officials have documented 1,942 advanced cases (1,691 confirmed and 251 suspected) among 1,886,753 people who were completely vaccinated, including 21 deaths, whose average age was 75.
In both states, the figures translate into an advanced infection rate of about 0.1% of fully vaccinated people, according to public health authorities, who show that vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections. COVID-19 and are even more effective in preventing serious illness or death.
Advanced infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are those that occur at least two weeks after a person has received a full series of vaccinations, at which time the person is considered to be fully vaccinated.
Howell said nearly half of North Dakota’s advanced infections (145) were of people 60 and older. Eighty-three advanced infections were asymptomatic and 36 resulted in hospitalization, according to state data.
In addition, 65 of North Dakota’s advanced infections involved people who had previously tested positive, so it was unclear if it was a new infection or if there were enough viruses left for these people to test positive again, Howell said. .
In Minnesota, advanced infections have resulted in 175 hospitalizations and details available for 71 of those admissions showed an average age of 70 years.
Public health officials have reported that innovative infections are inevitable because vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infection. Pfizer / BioNTech and Modern two-dose vaccines are considered to be around 95% effective in preventing infections and the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine is considered to be 67% effective.
“So it was expected, and even in clinical trials, some people developed COVID-19,” Howell said.
The reality of advanced infections underscores the importance of everyone getting vaccinated to prevent the spread of coronavirus, he said. Vaccinated only those who are most vulnerable, including the elderly and those with underlying diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, will not control the spread of the virus, he added.
The vaccines that have so far protected 99.9 percent of North Dakota’s inoculated population probably saved more than 7,000 lives, Howell said. “That’s significant,” he said.
In addition, deaths and hospitalizations of 65-year-olds or older have dropped dramatically since vaccinations began, Howell said.
Between August and November 2020, before vaccinations began, 1,614 North Dakotans aged 65 or older were hospitalized for COVID-19, he said. From January to April, after the vaccine was available, the figure dropped to 258, or a decrease of 84%.
Similarly, North Dakota recorded 859 deaths from COVID-19 for people aged 65 and over from August to November last year and 109 deaths in this age group from January to April, a decrease 87%, Howell said.
Even among the most vulnerable seniors, those who have been fully vaccinated have an “extremely low risk” of death from COVID-19, he said.
Dr. Avish Nagpal, Sanford Health’s chief infectious disease specialist at Fargo, said people have an unrealistic expectation that vaccines can prevent all infections.
“Nothing in life will be 100%,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. We keep vaccines to a different standard. “
Still, vaccines are much more effective than regular medications in preventing strokes and heart attacks, for example, Nagpal said.
Vaccines are even more effective in preventing serious illness or death than in preventing infection, he said. Those who are not vaccinated and infected with the coronavirus are at risk of developing long-term symptoms, according to Nagpal, which include shortness of breath, fatigue, and neurological or heart problems.
“The vaccine is much more cost-effective and much more effective than the regular medications we take,” he said.
The Sanford employee population in the Fargo service region provides an illustration of the effectiveness of vaccines, Nagpal said.
In rounded figures, nearly 80% of Sanford employees have been vaccinated, or 8,000 out of 10,000 employees. Among these 8,000 vaccinated employees, 17 advanced COVID-19 infections have been documented.
But among the 2,000 unvaccinated employees, 117 have captured COVID-19. In other words, Nagpal said, about 90 percent of infections occurred among about 20 percent of employees who were not vaccinated.
Nagpal and other experts believe it is unlikely that the United States will see another significant increase in infection, as enough of the population has been vaccinated.
In North Dakota, 43.7% are fully vaccinated and in Minnesota 50.5%, according to state data.