Four people in Oregon, who have been fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, have tested positive for the coronavirus the health authority reported Friday.
Oregon is among the first states nationwide to report “breakthrough cases” — people who test positive for coronavirus at least 14 days after receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“(This is) not to be unexpected in a vaccine that while phenomenal, with 95% percent effectiveness, still means 5% may still be infected,” Patrick Allen, the director of the health authority, said Friday.
Officials say that two “breakthrough cases” are in Yamhill County and the other two are located in Lane County. The four people had mild or no symptoms. Officials say that studies show that the vaccine may help reduce the severity of the illness.
“What all this means is that we can expect to see more breakthrough cases,” Dean Sidelinger, the health authority’s state health officer. “Getting as many Oregonians as possible vaccinated remains a critical objective to ending the pandemic.”
Sidelinger said that he anticipates as people continue to be vaccinated, more states will report “breakthrough cases.”
Health experts are monitoring the cases and genome sequencing is underway, with results expected next week.
In addition, the health authority announced on Friday that the number of people receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon and the amount of doses being shipped to the state have increased. However multiple vaccine locations were forced to close Friday and Saturday due to snowy and icy weather.
Currently, 10% of Oregon’s population have received at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
“Although still scarce, vaccines are becoming more widely available. More Oregonians are getting vaccinated by the day,” Sidelinger said.
Health officials announced Friday that Oregon’s weekly allocation of first doses is again increasing, from 75,000 to 82,000.
“These additional doses will help ensure our timelines stay on track and we may even get through our population of older adults sooner, but it’s still too early to tell,” Allen said.
On average, more than 17,000 Oregonians are being vaccinated a day. However health authority officials say the state ultimately needs to reach and maintain more than 25,000 doses per day to achieve community immunity in Oregon before autumn.
This week, Oregonians who are 80 or older became eligible for vaccine. Officials say that approximately 26% of that population have been administered doses.
“I know many of you were disappointed you couldn’t get an appointment,” Allen said. “I want to let you know I stand by my promise that you’ll get vaccinated.”
People age 75 years or older will become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.
Allen said that Oregon remains on pace to administer first doses to 75% of all eligible populations, including seniors 65 or older, by early April.
In addition, Allen said that he expects that by the end of the week more than 500,000 Oregonians — 70% of people currently eligible to be vaccinated will have received their first dose.
Unless, Allen said, weather “takes a major toll on our ability to vaccinate people in coming days.”
On Friday multiple vaccination sites were forced to close their doors and cancel thousands of appointments due to snowy and icy weather that created dangerous conditions.
The Oregon Convention Center, Oregon Health & Science University and Clark County Fairgrounds sites all announced they would be closed Friday and Saturday and will work to reschedule appointments.
However, officials did share good news on Friday — based on recent data, COVID-19 cases in the state have decreased.
In early January, the average number of new cases in the state was 1,149. The average daily case count has now decreased by 50%.
Earlier this week, the health authority reported the lowest weekly case total in three months. In addition, the state’s percentage of positive cases has decreased to 4.2%. There have also been decreases in hospitalizations and COVID-19 associated deaths.
“These decreases are a testament to the actions all Oregonians are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the sacrifices made,” Sidelinger said.
On Friday the health authority reported 517 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, raising the state’s total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 149,576. The death toll is 2,094.