IDAHO FALLS — Idaho Bureau of Laboratories Director Christopher Ball has said concerning coronavirus variants are likely spreading across the state, despite efforts to vaccinate residents.
COVID-19 vaccines currently being distributed are believed to be effective against the strains; however, the continued spread intensifies pressure to speed up the vaccination efforts, the Post Register reported Tuesday.
“We are in a race against the variants with our vaccination program,” said Kathryn Turner, the state’s deputy public health researcher. “Every single time that virus is transmitted, it has a chance to mutate. So, the faster we get people vaccinated, the better off we’ll be, the fewer variants we’ll have.”
Health officials have said variants accounted for four of the more than 100 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks after receiving their final vaccines. Turner said cases where people contract the virus after being fully vaccinated are rare, accounting for less than 0.03 percent of about 320,000 fully vaccinated residents.
Data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reveals 95 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been identified as caused by variants of concern. But Ball said official state variant counts don’t show the whole picture.
Ball said at state-run labs in Idaho, coronavirus test samples suspected to be variants have undergone genomic sequencing. Medical workers flag samples through clinical information that suggests someone caught a more infectious or severe strain, or through test sample information that shows signs of a variant.
“It appears that for every region of the state, we’ve detected both the U.K. variant” and two variants first identified in California, Ball said. “We feel fairly comfortable based on the information that we have right now that those two variants of concern are probably circulating in most communities throughout the state.”
More than 180,000 residents have contracted the virus and 1,972 have died, health officials said. Around 320,000 people are fully vaccinated in the state, while some 172,000 have received at least one vaccine dose.
168 people in Oregon got COVID-19 even after vaccinations
Of more than 700,000 people in Oregon who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, 168 still tested positive for the virus and three died, the Oregon Health Authority said Thursday.
The health agency said that while the vaccines are all highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness and death, “no vaccine is 100 percent effective, and vaccine breakthrough cases will occur.”
Vaccine breakthrough cases are instances in which a person received a positive COVID-19 test result at least 14 days after the final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine series.
“Vaccine breakthrough cases can be prevented by ... masking, physical distancing and avoiding social gatherings,” the OHA said in a statement.
Many of the vaccinated people who tested positive for COVID-19 experienced asymptomatic infection. None of the vaccine breakthrough cases was associated with a COVID-19 variant.
The OHA also reported 678 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 and five new deaths.