BY: Caroline Machiraju

When Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam claimed that the “data makes it clear,” about vaccine safety and efficacy, she used sketchy math, at best. She counted the state’s Covid unvaccinated deaths, dating all the way back to January 1, 2021, when deaths were barely dropping from December’s peak (6,385 deaths) and the entire country was virtually unvaccinated, when analyzing the “breakthrough” cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines ‘breakthrough’ cases as individuals who are fully vaccinated and tested positive for COVID-19 more than 14 days after they completed their full one or two-dose vaccination series.

Her analysis is akin to saying, we’ve only had ‘x’ number of football-related concussions this year, based on numbers from the first week of pre-season. Of course the total number of concussions would be low because the football and the players haven’t been thrown around enough on the field yet.

But, now the numbers from the field, so-to-speak, are beginning to tell a different story, if you can obtain the numbers, that is. According to a Right-to-Know Request (which I filed on July 26, 2021), breakthroughs deaths have made quite a jump since July.

In early September, DOH reported (to me) that Breakthrough Deaths – thru July – totaled 126 deaths (see Table, titled “Release.xlsx); now, contrast that with the number that Beam cited: 213 Breakthrough deaths, suggesting there were 87 more breakthrough deaths since August!

Beam shared the selective data at a press conference on Sept. 14 at Lancaster General Hospital.

Hospitalizations appear to be rising as well, considering that DOH reported to me, a total of 586 through the end of July; as opposed to the 1820 that Beam cited at the press conference. Beam also added that the data was not complete, but only from 55 percent of all hospitals!

So what is the complete picture?

Safety and efficacy data on the vaccine can’t be assessed until the population has substantial numbers of its population fully vaccinated; and data should only be compared in a period when the “experimental” group (that being the vaccinated) exists in equal numbers to the “control group” (the unvaccinated)! It’d be more telling to compare present numbers, when at least half the population is vaccinated, say in Cumberland County where the vaccination rate is 56.5%. (There’s also the variable that many of the so-called “unvaccinated” have natural immunity.)

“Mild” Breakthroughs.. Are They Mild?

Also, in an effort to gain a clearer picture of the “mild” breakthrough cases, we reached out to Penn State Health, UPMC and WellSpan to get recent numbers on breakthroughcases being sent home to recover – say from urgent care centers and ERs. Those are typically regarded as “mild” cases and have not been readily available in any data dashboards for public view.

Only WellSpan responded, but failed our request: “We do not share the breakdown of those COVID-19 patients treated at WellSpan Urgent Care locations and then sent home,” said WellSpan Media Relations Manager Ryan Coyle. Both Penn State Health and UPMC failed to respond at all; Pa. DOH responded, but only with a link to their press conference news releases, not to my pointed questions. Pa. DOH is also giving some overview of post-vaccination data; but it appears to be “cumulative” in its analysis.

It should also be noted that Wellspan shared their Covid dashboard, which contains some revealing info, like the superspikes back in January/February and the current so-called “spikes” which are minimal in comparison to previous spikes.

We ask you the readers: Wouldn’t you like to know the true reflection of all breakthrough cases? We’ve also asked area health systems (and DOH) what a “mild” case looks like, buthaven’t received response on that either. 

If you are one of the breakthrough cases and would like to share your story, please reach out to Harrisburg100. We want to hear your stories that are not being reflected in the data. Your story counts!

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  3. […] of coverage on Covid “breakthroughs” in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg100 recently featured a story on the DOH’s news pitch to present breakthroughs as being highly rare, using an oversized sample […]



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