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Severe health outcomes after double vaccination exceedingly rare, but not unexpected, experts say

Click to play video: 'Fully-vaccinated patients in Manitoba ICUs' Fully-vaccinated patients in Manitoba ICUs
Fully-vaccinated Manitobans continue to make up a portion of those entering intensive care units. But as Global's Will Reimer explains, health officials say that's to be expected – Oct 27, 2021

Some fully-vaccinated Manitobans are still becoming COVID-19 cases, and in rare instances ending up in hospitals, but health officials say it’s not unexpected.

“We try to think of it more like a seatbelt. It’s a great way to protect yourself, but it won’t protect you 100 per cent of the time in a car crash,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, head of the province’s vaccine task force, on Wednesday.

“What has really been remarkable is the dramatic drop in those severe outcomes in vaccinated populations compared to unvaccinated.”

Read more: Breakthrough cases: What’s it like catching COVID-19 after vaccination?

In much the same way the odds of a breakthrough infection being reported climb as more people become immunized, the more Manitobans become fully-vaccinated, the greater the likelihood someone will have a severe outcome, Dr. Reimer explained.

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At first glance, it may be startling to see a third of the patients admitted to intensive care in Manitoba during the second week of October were fully-vaccinated, but those numbers alone can be misleading, the experts say.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba health officials calm concerns over rise in breakthrough infections' Manitoba health officials calm concerns over rise in breakthrough infections
Manitoba health officials calm concerns over rise in breakthrough infections – Oct 6, 2021

“Overall, the vast majority (of people) are vaccinated, and yet the minority in ICU are vaccinated,” said Craig Jenne, an associate professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary.

“So it does show that there’s dramatic protection, otherwise we would expect ICU admissions to be somewhere 80, 85 per cent vaccinated if there was no protection offered. So this three-fold reduction, four-fold reduction really points out how protective the vaccines are.”

Jenne explains there is no unifying reason why some fully immunized people end up in hospital, but generally speaking, the risk appears to align with the same factors that put someone at risk of severe COVID-19 to begin with.

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Read more: Some fully vaccinated people have died of COVID-19. What you need to know

“That can range from a number of underlying health conditions such as immune deficiencies, or solid organ transplant, receiving medication that suppresses immunity, cancer therapy, advanced age – things of that nature,” Jenne said.

“(Those factors) impact not just this vaccine, but any vaccine those individuals receive.”

Data from the province shows as of Oct. 16, 102 fully-vaccinated Manitobans had been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 22 had died.

That represents around a hundredth of a per cent of people who had received both doses.

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