Napa County has reported its first death from COVID-19 in a fully vaccinated patient, according to a county spokesperson Thursday.
The woman, a Napa resident, died Wednesday, said Leah Greenbaum, public information officer for Napa County. She was over 65 years of age and had underlying medical conditions and died from complications of COVID-19 after a prolonged hospitalization.
The woman tested positive for the B117 (UK) variant, which is more transmissible and causes more severe illness.
Vaccine breakthrough cases occur in only a small percentage of vaccinated people. Greenbaum said Napa County has identified 32 breakthrough cases in which fully vaccinated residents became symptomatic and tested positive for COVID19--out of more than 71,371 residents who were fully vaccinated as of Thursday. This translates to an infection rate of 0.04% among fully vaccinated residents in Napa County.
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Cases of COVID-19 have declined substantially across Napa County in recent months since vaccinations became available, a testament to the tremendous efficacy of the vaccines. However, seniors and immuno-suppressed people may not mount as strong an immune response to the vaccine, underscoring the importance of increasing vaccination rates in the community. So far, 62 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated in Napa County.
"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of this individual," said Dr. Karen Relucio, Napa County Public Health Officer. "No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but this does not diminish the urgency and importance of getting vaccinated, especially as more variant strains emerge. Vaccines provide exceptional protection against death and illness from the virus and all residents should continue to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others."
Public health experts said her death is an example of why they're pushing for more people to get vaccinated.
“Senior Citizens and those with weaker immune systems from underlying medical problems, may not develop as strong an immune response to a vaccine,” said Dr. Ted O'Connell with Kaiser Health and UCSF Medical School. “So, this really points to the importance of increasing immunization rates in the community so that we protect those vulnerable individuals.”
This case also raises an important question about employers mandating employees to get vaccinated.
Workers in assisted living facilities were among the first who could get vaccinated in California.
“According to employment law, employers can mandate vaccination of their employees. But at that point it's going to be left up to the employer,” Relucio said.