At a press conference last week, Republican Gov. Phil Scott shifted his focus away from coronavirus case counts and on to hospitalizations and deaths when discussing vaccinated Vermonters.
The noticeable downplaying of cases is a reversal of his focus since the start of the pandemic.
“As we’ve learned, the vaccines were designed — first and foremost — to limit severe illness,” Scott said. “While we hoped they would nearly eliminate cases, that’s not really how vaccines work. The goal is to limit the number of people who are hospitalized or lose their life once vaccinated. And they are doing just that.”
Data provided by the Vermont Health Department over the two-week period ending Sept. 8 has been not good news for the state’s fully vaccinated. Covid-related hospitalizations among the vaccinated have jumped from 30 to 51, while deaths rose from 10 to 18. Cases among fully vaccinated Vermonters rose from 1,209 to 1,906.
Nevertheless, Scott reiterated that he believes that vaccines are “the single best tool we have to move from pandemic to endemic. … In short, vaccines continue to save lives; they allow us to do things we had to leave behind in 2020; and they are our best path forward to put this pandemic behind us.”
Vaccines typically provide full immunity from catching or transmitting diseases. The tetanus vaccine offers immunity for up to 10 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while standard two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine typically protects for a lifetime.
Scott, however, said it’s only a “small percentage” of breakthrough cases that are occurring among the vaccinated.
“I’m sure some are wondering whether vaccines make a difference because you’ve been reading so much about the small percentage of breakthrough cases,” he said. “But before you arrive at that conclusion, it’s important to look at Vermont’s data.”
The benchmark for vaccination success may have been lowered. The governor suggested that now vaccine policy is focused on limiting severe illness, not preventing Vermonters from getting and transmitting COVID.
Some workers are now engaged in work-required weekly COVID tests as an alternative to taking the vaccine. It’s not yet clear how this could impact comparisons of vaccinated cases vs. unvaccinated cases.
At the national level, a new study by the One America News Network claims that the vaccinated are getting sick at a much greater rate than the unvaccinated who had developed natural immunity.
“A new study involving tens-of-thousands of patients reveals fully vaccinated people are 27 times more likely to end up with COVID symptoms than those who have never had a vaccine,” the report states.
“The numbers back up what we’ve known all along … that our bodies are far better at fighting this virus and many others than the vaccine is,” said OANN’s Pearson Sharp.
Deaths from COVID-19 continue to be mostly elderly and health-compromised populations. According to the state’s Department of Health data as of Sept. 14, four people under age 40 died from COVID-associated deaths. All together 26 people under age 60 have passed away with such deaths.
Technical definitions for a COVID-associated death continue to include non-confirmed cases.
“Deaths include deaths among confirmed and probable cases,” it states. “Both probable and confirmed deaths have COVID-19 as a cause or contributing condition on their death certificate. Of the deaths reported, 11 are among non-VT residents who died in Vermont.”
Another concern is that PCR tests used to detect the virus continue to be under scrutiny for producing many asymptomatic cases, which some health professionals conclude are unlikely to become sick or spread the virus.
“Most folks believe that a positive test means they are sick and negative means that they got a green signal to be free, but the truth is far from it, and the answer is somewhat complicated,” wrote Dr. Balram Khehra for KevinMD.com.