LOS ANGELES, CA — Six months into the vaccination effort, Los Angeles County has recorded nearly 1,000 “breakthrough” cases in which fully vaccinated people went on to test positive for the coronavirus. Of those breakthrough cases, 71 were hospitalized and 12 died.
With more than 3.3 million Angelenos fully vaccinated, 933 breakthrough cases translates to an infection rate of .03 percent, and the county’s COVID-19 death rate among the fully vaccinated is 0.00036%., said Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. The numbers show that coronavirus vaccines are proving to be extremely effective, she said.
“Our results are in fact consistent with the state’s,” Ferrer said. “And this news is very good because these numbers show that the vaccination is working extraordinarily well to prevent infection, illness and death in almost everyone vaccinated.”
The county is offering a chance to win Lakers season tickets to anyone who gets their first shot at county- or city-operated vaccination site this weekend in an effort to encourage residents to take advantage of the protection provided by the vaccines.
Ferrer also pointed to a pair of other recent studies — one out of Houston and another from Israel — that both found the vaccines had an effectiveness rate of more than 96% in preventing illness.
“We now have mounting proof that these vaccines really work,” she said.
Of the fatal breakthrough cases, four of the patients had “severely weakened immune systems” from prior medical conditions or medications. Their cases, highlight the need for vulnerable people to continue taking precautions even after being fully vaccinated.
As of May 16, more than 9.1 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the county, and more than 5 million residents have received at least one dose. She said among residents aged 16 and over, 61% have received at least one dose, and 47% are now considered fully vaccinated.
The numbers are better among older residents, with 84% of residents aged 65 and over receiving at least one dose, and 70% being fully vaccinated.
There continue to be racial and ethnic disparities. Among the population aged 16-64, just 34% of Black residents have received at least one dose, compared to 57% of whites and 67% of Asians. The rate for Latinx residents is 42%.
“Over these next few weeks as we prepare for our full reopening, we do need to double-down on our efforts to reduce any barriers to vaccination in our hard-hit communities,” Ferrer said. “Our goal in doing this is to ensure these communities are not more vulnerable to rising cases and outbreaks when there are fewer public health safety modifications in effect at the places where residents and workers are intermingling with people outside their households.”
She urged residents who have been vaccinated to reach out to friends or colleagues who have not, and talk to them “about what’s stopping them and help them make a vaccination plan.”
“If we each reach out to just one person, we together take a very big step forward in ending the pandemic,” she said.
The chance to win a pair of Lakers season ticket may entice many people who have put off getting the shot, county officials hope.
“Thanks to the generosity of the Lakers and their deep commitment to getting us all safely to the end of the pandemic, a lucky pair will be able to watch live at the Staples Centers all the home Lakers games for this upcoming season,” Ferrer said. “So this weekend make time to get your vaccine. Not only will you get a lot of added protection, but you may be that lucky person who gets to watch an amazing basketball team pursue another NBA championship.”
The county reported another 19 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, lifting the countywide death toll to 24,140.
Another 245 cases were confirmed, giving the county a cumulative total throughout the pandemic of 1,238,121.
According to state figures, there were 355 people hospitalized in the county with COVID-19, down slightly from 356 on Wednesday. There were 82 people in intensive care, up from 81 a day earlier.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.