Fully Vaccinated Covid-19 Cases Rise In Penang

Breakthrough infections have been increasing in Penang, with the fully inoculated comprising 59% of 863 new Covid-19 cases in Penang on Sept 29.

GEORGE TOWN, Oct 1 — The proportion of fully vaccinated people increased from about 40 per cent to nearly 60 per cent of daily Covid-19 infections in Penang over the past fortnight.

Based on data provided by the Penang state health department (JKNPP), the share of fully inoculated people among new coronavirus cases hit a high of 58.9 per cent on September 29, rising from 35.6 per cent of all diagnosed Category One to Five cases on September 10.

JKNPP did not release the vaccination status of new infections yesterday. As of September 29, about 63.3 per cent of Penang’s total population have completed inoculation.

Even though overall, more Covid-19 cases of the moderate to severe Category Three to Five are from either the unvaccinated or those partially vaccinated with one dose, the numbers are still not encouraging for the fully vaccinated.

There are days when the fully vaccinated share of Category Three to Five cases goes past 40 per cent, for example on September 23, 27, 28, and 29.

Clinicians treating Category Three to Five cases should offer a reason for these unwanted numbers of rising breakthrough cases, and now even severe disease, among the fully vaccinated.

Penang’s Covid-19 vaccine basket is mixed. About 48 per cent of fully vaccinated people in Penang received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot as of September 29, followed by Sinovac (39.2 per cent), AstraZeneca-Oxford (11.5 per cent), and a minority with CanSino at 0.12 per cent.

Daily Covid-19 cases in Penang from August 1 to September 28. Graphic by Boo Soon Yew.

However, do rising vaccination numbers translate to a downward trend of daily cases? That’s for sure as we look at the overall graph from August 1 till September 29. These are indeed the numbers that are good!

On the whole, numbers are good with daily Covid-19 cases dipping lower and lower. On the other hand, we can forget about comparing clusters now.

After a daily glut of cluster cases reported each day throughout August, things changed from September 8 to September 9 when cluster cases were so few.

It would not be surprising if unlinked cases have now “surged” past the 90 per cent mark! Yet, this would be a number that is no longer representative if there has been a change in policy of tracking cases.

Penang had been reeling from a high number of cases throughout the month of August. We hit highs of 2,078 and 2,054 new cases on August 26 and August 24 respectively.

In fact, this month brought equally tension-filled numbers of 2,474 (current record high) and 2,243 new cases on September 8 and September 9.

To those who were keeping an eye on the Klang Valley, the hotbed of infections in both Selangor and Kuala Lumpur for much of July into August, things turned for the better and by late August, daily cases touched 3,000 in Selangor when they used to have 8,000 cases.

Even the hospital intensive care unit (ICU) bed occupancy reduced dramatically, so what changed? It was without doubt the Operation Surge Capacity, initiated from mid-July when the health care system in the Klang Valley was facing a barrage of cases.

Frustrations boiled over into social media with candid accounts of overworked health care workers and strained medical resources. Yet all those are now a record for posterity in order for future health care management to strategise and avoid the past shortcomings.

As for us in Penang, we were languishing at 57.8 per cent vaccinated for at least the first dose on August 30, or 42.1 per cent fully vaccinated of the total population. This has since risen to 72.7 per cent vaccinated with at least one dose or 56.8 per cent fully vaccinated on September 18.

In fact, latest numbers on September 29 show 76.6 per cent vaccinated with at least one dose or 63.3 per cent fully vaccinated. To a large measure, concerted efforts to vaccinate school going teenagers this past one week helped.

And so here we are at the end of September 2021, a step into October 2021 when many sectors are opening up, schools will be reopening soon, and of course an optimistic view of things to come.

Nevertheless, let us cover our bases, as they say. Let us continue the promotion of vaccination, especially now that teenagers are preparing for face-to-face lessons, but also be able to offer an answer or explanation, like why breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated are rising.

This will be among the numbers that matter because if vaccines are as effective as they should be, the numbers should reflect that. All the more as we see how this pandemic slowly but surely turns endemic.

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