While new data shows Arizona has nearly 30,000 COVID-19 breakthrough cases, the Department of Health says the vaccine is still the best safety measure to avoid winding up in a hospital bed.
A "breakthrough infection" is defined as a positive COVID-19 test more than 14 days after a person's second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
To date, Arizona has seen 27,707 confirmed breakthrough infections. Of those cases, 154 patients died, a total of half a percent of all cases.
According to a 13-state study that included Arizona, people who were not vaccinated were 10.4 times more likely to be hospitalized by COVID-19, and 11.3 more likely to die from the virus.
Per the Arizona Department of Health Services about people who have experienced breakthrough cases, "Of those reached for follow-up, 93% (9,018 of 9,730) were symptomatic and 10% (1,371 of 13,405) were hospitalized (although it’s unknown if that was related to COVID-19 or the patients were tested routinely and COVID-19 was incidentally found). Pfizer: 16,814 (61%) Moderna 7,664 (28%) Johnson & Johnson 3,229 (11%)."
This week, the CDC fully endorsed the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 booster shot for the elderly, people who are immunocompromised, and certain essential employees such as teachers and health care workers.
"There are pockets of the population that the original vaccine has not been as strong or is not maintaining at a strong level," said Dr. David Engelthaler with TGEN, a genetics research center in Flagstaff. "The reason for that is that not everybody needs a booster. We still need these vaccines to vaccinate the people who didn’t get their original vaccine."
One Valley family has already received their booster shot.
Conor Mills, who has autism and Down syndrome, received the booster shot in early September with his family, since he is immunocompromised. In 2019, Mills was hospitalized with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and given a 50% chance to live.
He survived, but ARDS left him susceptible to respiratory illnesses.
"His immune system was basically attacking his own body," said Maureen Mills, Conor's mom, who said it was a no-brainer when it came to getting the Pfizer booster shot. "Let's make sure that he gets as much protection as possible because there's no way that we want him to go through that again it was horrible."