After two deadly ‘breakthrough’ cases, health officials underscore vaccine importance

Two of the three people who died from COVID-19 in Franklin and Essex counties this week were vaccinated. These were the first local people known to have died from COVID-19 after getting immunized.

Public health officials say older adults, even those who are immunized, remain at higher risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. The two vaccinated people who died this week were both elderly.

Phillip Rau, a spokesperson for Alice Hyde Medical Center, said the death from COVID-19 announced by Franklin County Public Health on Tuesday was a 79-year-old who was hospitalized at the medical center in Malone, and who died at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh.

Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers confirmed on Wednesday that a resident of the Elderwood of Uihlein nursing home in Lake Placid — who had died on Monday from a COVID-19 related illness, a spokesman for the nursing home said Tuesday — had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Feb. 15.

“Past experience tells us that COVID-19 is especially hard on older adults in congregate settings,” Beers wrote in an email. “As we age, our immune response is not always as robust after vaccination. Immunized older adults remain at higher risk for serious illness and death if they are infected with Sars-CoV-2; however, vaccines continue to be extremely effective at preventing hospitalizations and death, even with the delta variant.”

Public health officials are still urging everyone who isn’t vaccinated yet to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Although death from COVID-19 is still possible post-vaccination, those who are vaccinated are much more likely to experience less severe or no symptoms if a “breakthrough” infection does happen. People who are vaccinated and subsequently test positive for COVID-19 are also hospitalized because of the virus at a much lower rate.

“Vaccinations have been effective in reducing hospitalizations and ICU admissions,” Franklin County Public Health Director Kathleen Strack wrote in an email. “Vaccinated persons are having milder illnesses and faster recoveries. Getting vaccinated is a very important part of preventing COVID-19.”

Anyone interested in getting vaccinated against COVID-19 can visit covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov to find a vaccine clinic near them.

Both the Essex County and Franklin County health departments frequently offer vaccine clinics and post schedules for these clinics on their websites: www.co.essex.ny.us/Health/make-an-appointment and www.franklincountyny.gov/residents/covid-19_guidance/index.php, respectively. Vaccines are also available at many local pharmacies.

As of Thursday, there were 137 active cases in Franklin County, 22 of them new, and 46 active cases in Essex County, 26 of them new, according to the Essex and Franklin County health departments.


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