How Many Vaccinated Arizonans Have Gotten COVID-19? Here Are the Numbers.

A state trooper receives a vaccination from ADHS head Cara Christ in January.
A state trooper receives a vaccination from ADHS head Cara Christ in January. Arizona Department of Health Services
After Arizona Representative Alma Hernandez was hospitalized with COVID-19 this week despite being fully vaccinated, experts were quick to point out that such an event is rare.

How rare?

According to the state Department of Health Services, Arizona has had 1,092 confirmed "breakthrough" COVID-19 cases involving fully vaccinated people in all 15 counties as of May 6. The state began vaccinating people in mid-December, and so far has administered more than 5 million doses to 3 million people.

Of those 1,092 cases, the state estimates about 71 percent were symptomatic, and slightly more than 16 percent —107 patients — were hospitalized.

However, DHS spokesperson Steve Elliott said it's not known yet if all 107 were hospitalized because of COVID-19 or because they tested positive in a routine test after being admitted for some other reason. (Also, the state's percentages here are based on about half of the 1,092 breakthrough cases in which investigators learned more about what happened to the patients.)

No deaths were reported in any of the breakthrough cases.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were involved in 58 percent of the breakthrough cases, Moderna in 32 percent, and Johnson & Johnson in 10 percent. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Hernandez, a Democrat who represents Tucson's District 3, tweeted on April 28 that she had tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine 11 weeks before. She had a migraine, fever, and loss of smell and taste, she reported, adding, "Hopefully, my symptoms don’t worsen..."

They did. "Last night I went to the ER due to my fever coming back & unbearable migraine," she tweeted on May 4. "My body has reacted differently so I needed help. The amazing medical staff at @DignityHealthAZ immediately put me on a mix of medications/IVS; this morning... I feel 100x better."

"All of the available COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths," Elliot said. "As a result, symptomatic vaccine breakthrough cases will tend to be less severe than infections in people who are not vaccinated. Asymptomatic infections among vaccinated people also will occur."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in late April that fully vaccinated people who were 65 or older were 94 percent less likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19 than non-vaccinated people their age, Elliott pointed out. But since no vaccine is 100 percent effective, the state wants as many people to be vaccinated as possible, he said.

Doing the math — 1,092 "breakthrough" cases out of 3 million vaccinated people — the percentage of Arizonans infected after vaccination is just 0.36 percent. 

Another way to crunch the numbers: The DHS website daily case count shows 288,775 confirmed cases from January 1 to May 4. With just 1,092 breakthrough cases, that means since the start of the new year, less than 0.38 percent of all confirmed cases involved someone who had been vaccinated.

If you're not vaccinated yet, here's the state site that tells you how to make an appointment and displays the many different locations offering the vaccine.

Below — Hernandez's April 29 video about getting COVID-19 after being vaccinated, before she was hospitalized: 

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern