In Houston, 142 fully vaccinated people were infected with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2) virus. According to a Houston Chronicle report last week with data from the Houston Health Department, the first cases were reported in January. Full vaccination refers to administering either two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
The city’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. David Persse, downplayed the data, stating that some fully vaccinated people would inevitably become infected. “This vaccine is not dissimilar from other vaccines in that it gives you some level of protection, but no vaccine is 100 percent effective,” Persse said in a statement. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said that infections in the fully vaccinated are “not at all incompatible with a 90-plus percent vaccine efficacy.”
However, similar reports have cropped up all over the United States. In Michigan, 246 residents were reportedly infected after being fully vaccinated for over two weeks, and three of them died. Authorities reported more than 100 such cases, and 168 cases were identified in Oregon with three associated deaths.
Notably, a fully vaccinated solid organ transplant patient from Dallas County recently passed away due to COVID-19. The patient was thought to be immunocompromised due to the organ transplant and was more likely to contract the virus. Judge Clay Jenkins, the top elected official in the county, said in a statement that immunocompromised individuals would continue to be vulnerable to COVID-19 despite being vaccinated.
In total, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified around 5,800 people across the country who have been infected despite being fully vaccinated against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Of these infected individuals, 396 people, or 7 percent, required hospitalization, and 74 people died.
The CDC is actively looking for distinct patterns by analyzing data such as patient location, age, gender, the type of vaccine administered, and types of coronavirus variants. More than 40 percent of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the fully vaccinated have occurred in people aged 60 or older. Women comprised 65 percent of cases, and 29 percent of cases were asymptomatic.
The U.S. recently passed a milestone of distributing over 200 million vaccines. The first 100 million doses were distributed in 89 days, while the rest of the doses took 36 days. Less than 40 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while around a quarter has received two doses.
Experts predict drop in vaccine demand
The country is currently vaccinating around one percent of its population daily, but some experts believe that the rate of vaccinations may soon drop. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner and member of the board of directors at Pfizer, said in an NPR interview that the supply of vaccines might soon outstrip demand.
Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb anticipates a decrease in the rate of vaccine uptake after approximately half of Americans are vaccinated. Gottlieb visited the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on July 25, 2017. Image: USDAgov via Flickr/CC0.10/
“I think that there’s probably 150 million Americans who are eager to get vaccinated. And as we expand into the younger age cohorts and a new eligible population… you’re not going to see the demand be as brisk,” Gottlieb told NPR. “I think we struggle to get to 160 million. Beyond that, I think it’s going to be difficult. I’m not sure that you have the demand there,” he said.
In some states, around 30 percent of the available vaccines are sitting unused. In areas such as Virginia and Lynchburg, many vaccine appointments remain unfilled despite only a tiny proportion of the local population being vaccinated.
India vaccine supply drops due to US embargo
Meanwhile, the U.S. is also entangled in a conflict with India over vaccine supplies. The Serum Institute of India (SII), which has partnered with AstraZeneca to produce over 300 million vaccines for more than 100 low-income nations by June, asked President Joe Biden to lift the embargo placed on exports of vaccine raw materials.
The U.S. invoked the Defense Production Act, which empowers the government to directly control industrial production during emergencies such as the current coronavirus pandemic. The law mandates companies to prioritize the production of materials or services deemed critical for the country’s defense. In extreme situations, the law can be used to block companies from exporting goods to other nations.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of SII, called the embargo “as good as banning vaccines.” He said in an interview with Business Standard, “There is a long list of raw materials which we import from the US – filters, bags, certain media solutions, etc. Developing new suppliers in the eleventh hour will take a bit of time. We will do that. We will not be dependent on the US after six months. The problem is we need it now.”
AstraZeneca has sent SII a legal notice for the delay in supplying vaccines, and several Indian states are reporting that their vaccine stocks are dwindling. SII’s production of the Novavax vaccine has also stalled due to supply issues.