Officials in Washington state recorded jumps in post-vaccination infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in mid-2021, according to newly disclosed internal emails.
Fifteen percent of COVID-19 cases and 25 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations from July 1 to July 20, 2021, were vaccinated—up from 2 percent between February and June that year, Chris Spitters, the health officer for the Snohomish County Health District, wrote in one of the messages. A fifth of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 were vaccinated.
Spitters also detailed a COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility with over a dozen breakthrough, or post-vaccination, cases.
Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, of The Everett Clinic, responded by saying that about 20 percent of people testing positive in the clinic were fully vaccinated. “ALL 3 vaccines are breaking through,” Tu wrote.
Dr. James Cook, chief medical officer at the Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, told Spitters and Tu that some hospitalized patients were vaccinated and the majority of workers who were testing positive were fully vaccinated.
“I don’t think any have been hospitalized but I’m not 100% sure,” Cook wrote.
The emails, all sent on July 30, 2021, were obtained and published recently by Ari Hoffman, a 570 KVI radio host and an editor for The Post Millennial. They were reviewed by The Epoch Times, which confirmed their authenticity.
The emails were sent after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study showing that 74 percent of COVID-19 cases from an outbreak in Massachusetts occurred among fully vaccinated people, undercutting claims from top health officials that the vaccinated would not get infected. The outbreak investigation prompted the agency to recommend vaccinated people wear masks indoors, a reversal from about two months prior.
Spitters said in his missive that the outbreak study provided “sobering news” and predicted a “rocky road ahead.”
“We really need to reframe our public education approach to emphasizing vaccination along with the other prevention measures rather than the faded illusion of vaccination instead of other prevention measures. The stellar individual protection afforded by vaccination is no longer, nor is the dream of getting out from under COVID on July 1,” he said, referring to President Joe Biden declaring that COVID-19 “no longer controls our lives” and that the country had achieved “independence from COVID-19” thanks to vaccination.
“Effectiveness is still good compared to many other vaccines and higher coverage would still do us a lot of good, but the vaccine effectiveness is clearly no longer what it was just a couple of months ago and folks should manage themselves accordingly,” Spitters added.
Snohomish County officials had said in June 2021 that the county’s COVID-19 metrics were dropping “thanks in large part to the growing number of people getting vaccinated.” Spitters had said that “relief is on the horizon.”
Just weeks later, with metrics rising, the county’s health agency acknowledged that people who were vaccinated could still become infected, but described breakthrough infections as “occasional” and the vaccinated as better off when it came to illness, hospitalization, and death.
“Local public health officials were publicly discussing breakthrough infections in summer 2021, as were many healthcare professionals, researchers, and scientists. Throughout the COVID-19 response, local public health has consistently been in communication about the best disease prevention measures to keep our communities healthy,” Dr. Dennis Worsham and Dr. James Lewis, now the top two health officials in the country, told The Epoch Times via email in response to a query about the internal messages.
“It is not a surprise to have breakthrough infections. Even vaccines that work very well are not a 100% guarantee against infection, and we don’t expect them to be. What we continue to see, though, is that fully vaccinated (and now boosted, particularly with the new bivalent booster) individuals are much less likely to require hospitalization or die of COVID-19 related complications,” they added.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, in August 2021 imposed COVID-19 vaccine mandates for public workers, healthcare workers, and teachers, claiming that the mandates would be crucial in “defeating this deadly disease.” When the vaccines first rolled out, experts hoped the shots would work well enough to drastically diminish or even eliminate the virus, or reach herd immunity. But by the end of 2021, with the vaccines performing worse than expected, they were acknowledging that may not be possible.
In another jurisdiction in Washington state in July 2021, Lewis flagged the rising number of breakthrough infections in a separate email chain.
Lewis, at the time an epidemiologist with Seattle and King County’s health department, told colleagues he’d been speaking with contact tracers who “are hearing stories all day from people who are vaccinated and getting COVID.”
One example, he said, was a party to celebrate vaccination that forced attendees to provide proof of vaccination to enter.
Tracers identified at least nine people who attended the party who had tested positive, Lewis said in an email.
The Facebook listing for the event called it “Operation Inoculation: A Critical Community Vaccination Celebration” and said 258 people registered to go.
“You did it! You’ve survived one of the worst pandemics and presidencies in U.S. History. There’s no question we’ve only yet begun to deal with the fallout, but thanks to all of you who have fulfilled your Civic Responsibility to get vaccinated, we’re on the road to recovery, and we think that’s something to celebrate. If you’ve had your shots, join us for a good old-fashioned, party-like-it’s-2016 Burner Party,” the listing stated.
“Sorry for the bad news,” Lewis wrote, adding that the tracers wanted to know what guidance on masking and quarantining they should give to vaccinated people.
Another set of messages released by Hoffman showed Worsham, at the time the interim director of the Seattle and King County Public Health, reporting a spike in metrics to then-Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who asked for more information on how many breakthrough cases were happening and what the severity of the disease was like in the vaccinated. Worsham asked health workers for information.
“We do have information and are working on talking points for Jeff—should be ready tomorrow,” Sargis Pogosjans, one of the workers, wrote. “I think the context is extremely important—an increased proportion of fully vaccinated cases should be expected since the vaccine is not 100% effective against infection and now, the population of fully vaccinated residents outnumber unvaccinated residents.”
“I agree with you Sargis—we are being clear in our conversations that we do expect people who are vaccinated to become infected with COVID,” Worsham replied. “As our population becomes more vaccinated—we do anticipate we will see more given that more people are vaccinated AND that vaccines are not 100% effective in protecting you from the virus.”
The talking points were not included in the emails.
Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Seattle and King County, told The Epoch Times via email that breakthrough infections were discussed nationally in the summer of 2021 and that the county communicated publicly about the trend.
“The fact that breakthrough infections occur does not mean vaccines do not work or provide important protection against serious COVID-19 infections. Vaccines provide substantial protection against serious COVID-19 even though protection against transmission is lower, and vaccination plus other layered protections are most effective at preventing transmission,” Duchin said, pointing to studies from the CDC and a study from Nature that estimated vaccines reduce transmission.
Clinical trials have not shown that vaccines reduce transmission and a Pfizer executive recently acknowledged that was not studied.
The papers from the CDC and other researchers have also shown that the vaccines provide little protection—the effectiveness even turns negative after time—against infection, and worse shielding against severe illness, since the Omicron variant emerged in late 2021. Observational data indicate the latest boosters, authorized and recommended in late 2022, protect poorly against infection and solidly against hospitalization.