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Doctors stress COVID-19 cases in fully vaccinated Albertans are to be expected

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID-RML via AP. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID-RML via AP

More than 15 per cent of new COVID-19 cases in Alberta are in fully vaccinated people, but experts say that number is nothing to be alarmed about.

As of Aug. 17, 16 per cent of new cases of COVID-19 were in people with two doses (111), 9.7 per cent of new cases were in those partially vaccinated (67) and 74 per cent of new cases were in those unvaccinated (511).

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Dr. Peter Brindley, an intensive care doctor at the University of Alberta Hospital, said the cases in those fully immunized do not mean vaccines are not working. Rather, he said they are a reflection of the vaccination coverage in Alberta — approximately 2.6 million people in the province have two doses.

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“The more people who are vaccinated, the higher the percentage of people with COVID who have been vaccinated will be,” he said.

“They represent a much larger group than the unvaccinated so of course they will represent a higher percentage of cases than people would expect.”

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Epidemiologist Cynthia Carr of EPI Research said it is important to be careful in interpreting the data.

“What we really need to look at is what is the risk amongst the groups that are fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated and not vaccinated and not what proportion of cases are accounted for,” she said.

“If 100 per cent of people were vaccinated, then 100 per cent of every case would be amongst a vaccinated person.”

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Data from Alberta Health shows that since Jan. 1, 0.1 per cent of people with two doses were diagnosed with COVID-19 14 days after their second immunization, with 93.7 per cent of cases in those unvaccinated or diagnosed within two weeks of the first dose.

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As of Aug. 17, 13 per cent of hospitalizations were in those fully vaccinated (24), five per cent were in those partially vaccinated (10) and 82 per cent were in those with no vaccine at all (150).

“That shows for sure that the vaccines are working in the way they are meant to, which is to prevent the virus from impacting our lower respiratory systems, our lungs and making us very sick,” Carr said.

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Brindley agrees, saying the data increasingly shows that if a fully vaccinated person were to get COVID, the severity would be lessened.

“You are massively less likely to need to be admitted, and if you do need to be admitted, you’re massively less likely to be desperately sick if you’ve had your vaccine,” he said.

Carr said it is important for those with two doses to be mindful in their interactions.

“What the risk factors are for those people that you live with, interact with,” she said.

“You should still consider yourself and all of those variables in making decisions about whether you want to go to crowded settings, whether or not you want to wear a mask, even if it is not mandated, and again, if you have any symptoms at all, don’t jump to an assumption. ‘It’s just a sniffle or smoke in the air or it’s allergies.’ It could still be COVID-19.”

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