LOS ANGELES - COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County continue to rise.
The county has been averaging daily new cases between 2,000 and 2,500 over the past week. Numbers like these haven’t been seen since February.
During a meeting with the County Board of Supervisors, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said over the past few weeks case rates have risen drastically among unvaccinated people. Cases also rose among vaccinated people, but at a smaller and slower rate.
According to data from the county, over 25% of new COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County are from fully vaccinated people.
"Over the period of July 1 through July 16... There were 13,598 cases diagnosed in LA County and unvaccinated people represented 74% of all of the cases, fully vaccinated people represented 26% or 3,592 of the cases," Ferrer stated.
In June fully vaccinated people accounted for 20% of all the cases diagnosed in LA County, while unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people accounted for 80% of the cases.
"As more people are vaccinated the number of fully vaccinated people becoming infected will increase and with the Delta variant that’s far more infectious, exposures to infections have also increased," she added.
Which vaccine did people who contracted COVID receive?
According to LA County Public Health, through July 16:
- 0.27% of people who were fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine tested positive for COVID
- 0.09% of those who were fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine tested positive for COVID
- 0.15% of those who were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine tested positive for COVID
"While there are small differences in these numbers, they may be in part due to differences in the risk of people who received different vaccines, and differences in the timing of each vaccine's rollout," Public Health said in a statement to FOX 11. "And because these are all very small numbers, all of the vaccines safely provide excellent protection against COVID infection, hospitalization, and death."
How are vaccinated people getting COVID?
According to the CDC, vaccines are the best defense we have against infectious diseases, but no vaccine is actually 100% effective. Although some fully vaccinated people have still been infected with COVID-19, they are highly unlikely to become seriously ill or require hospitalization, health officials said.
When fully vaccinated people get infected with the coronavirus, it's known as a "breakthrough" case. A small number of such cases are expected and health officials say they're not a cause for alarm. COVID-19 vaccines work by teaching the body to recognize the virus. So if someone is exposed to it after vaccination, their immune system should be ready to spring into action and fight it. Doctors say that If someone does end up getting sick despite vaccination, experts say the shots are good at reducing the severity of the illness — the main reason to get vaccinated.
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Ferrer said that if 50% of fully vaccinated residents were not vaccinated, then the number of unvaccinated people getting sick would almost double. She said if that was the case, then the daily case rates in the county would be over 5,000.
Given the number of people who are vaccinated in the county, she remains hopeful the county won't see a repeat of the winter surge in cases, which led to more than 8,000 people being hospitalized. According to Ferrer, of all the people hospitalized in the county in June, 92% were either unvaccinated entirely or not fully vaccinated. The figure was 95% in May. For the first 10 days of July, the rate is 91%. Among people dying from the virus, 99.8% of the COVID fatalities in the county during the first six months of the year occurred among the unvaccinated, Ferrer said.
COVID-19 delta variant
Health officials have repeatedly blamed the recent surge in cases on the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus. The variant was first discovered in India and is blamed for rampant infections in that country, along with outbreaks in the United Kingdom. It is now spreading across the United States, contributing to rising case numbers and hospitalizations.
The delta variant is a mutated version of the novel coronavirus that spreads more easily than other strains. It now accounts for an estimated 83% of COVID-19 cases in the United States as it continues to surge largely among unvaccinated populations, officials said.
Viruses constantly mutate, and most changes aren't concerning. But there is a worry that some variants might evolve enough to be more contagious, cause more severe illness or evade the protection that vaccines provide.
A study published on July 19 on the medical journal website BioRxiv found that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine was significantly less effective against the highly transmissible delta and lambda variants compared with two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Study authors found that while the two-dose vaccines were 94-95% effective in preventing COVID-19, the J&J vaccine had only 66.9% efficacy "in preventing moderate to severe disease."
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FOX Television Stations and City News Service contributed to this report.