Brownstone » Brownstone Journal » Colin Powell’s Breakthrough Infection Was Hardly Unusual

Colin Powell’s Breakthrough Infection Was Hardly Unusual


The sad death of Colin Powell should bring more needed attention to the phenomenon of breakthrough COVID infections of the fully vaccinated. You can choose to believe the establishment that breakthrough infections are nothing to worry about. Just a minor inconvenience because COVID vaccines are not and cannot be 100% effective. Or you can consider real world data that show how serious breakthrough infections really are.

A recent release of data from an important study by the Department of Defense merits very serious attention. It is called the Project Salus study. One indication of how important the data are is that the official website giving the data was taken down. But it is available on this site. A logical interpretation is that the federal agencies running the pandemic, namely NIH, CDC and FDA, were upset with the data (I am about to give you). 

Why? Because the data undercuts the establishment argument in favor of COVID vaccines and downplaying of breakthrough infections. It should be noted that this study has received no attention by mainstream media.

The title of the report is “Effectiveness of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines Against the Delta Variant Among 5.6 Million Medicare Beneficiaries 65 Years and Older,” dated September 28, 2021.

The DOD study got access to the medical data for those people who were fully vaccinated. Of that group, 2.7 million got the Pfizer shot and 2.9 million got the Moderna one. Here are key findings:

–         There were 161,000 breakthrough cases.

–        There were 33,000 hospitalizations.

–         There were 10,400 intensive care unit admissions.

–         There were 3,381 deaths.

The first reaction from establishment vaccine advocates is that all these numbers are very small percentages of the total sample of 5.6 million fully vaccinated people. That is correct. All that illustrates is the tyranny of small percentages when looking at health impacts of vaccines.

Furthermore, there are reasons why the above data undercount the true negative impacts of breakthrough infections. The principal one is the study followed CDC procedure in not counting any negative health impacts occurring within 14 days of the last vaccine shot. 

This is important, because some analyses have found that high fractions of negative health impacts, such as vaccine induced blood problems happen with a few days of vaccination. This omission is a deliberate deception aimed solely at undercounting negative health impacts of vaccines.

It should also be noted that this study did not examine serious adverse health impacts, including death, resulting from vaccines without any COVID infection long before and possibly long after breakthrough infections. This has been detailed by this author.

Another consideration is that the DOD study was on a cohort of about 10 percent of the entire Medicare population. And it is reasonable to believe that the 65 and older demographic very likely was vaccinated to a very high degree. Thus, the total number of deaths for this large group resulting from breakthrough infections could be large. Indeed, it has been widely reported that over 80 percent of COVID deaths are in that demographic. 

The tragic end to Colin Powell, age 84 who had two major underlying medical problems, also pertains to the 65 and older population. They are especially vulnerable to having immune systems unable to block a breakthrough infection when the vaccine immunity seriously degrades. Powell surely had his initial vaccinations many months earlier.

The study emphasized that the above data represented a marked improvement of analogous data from March to December 2020 period when COVID was rampant and before vaccinations. For example, the death rate of 2.1 percent for breakthrough infections of the vaccinated compared to 12 percent in the pre-vaccination period. Fine. That is correct. But consider that some 3,000 deaths for the 9/11 calamity was considered of enormous news media importance. So, why are the 3,381 deaths reported in the DOD study of little mainstream media interest?

The deaths are important because they show the true limitation of current COVID vaccines. It is now recognized that the effectiveness of them quickly diminishes over time. Generally speaking, after about six months they become ineffective. It was found in this study that breakthrough infection rates 5-6 months post-vaccination are twice as high as 3-4 months post-vaccination. 

Also noted was that the data showed that mRNA vaccine effectiveness falls short of what was predicted in the drug company studies that got them FDA sanctioned. And that the Moderna vaccine was better than the Pfizer one in sustaining effectiveness.

An unpublished graph of CDC data (made available on a Rational Ground newsletter, October 14, 2021) showed a marked increase in COVID deaths in hospitals starting in April 2021, rising from 3.1 to 15.1 percent for vaccinated patients in May 2021. This corresponds to the five months since the onset of the mass vaccination program; a period when vaccines lose their effectiveness. As time goes on, more people lose protection from vaccines causing more breakthrough infections.

This serious decline in vaccine effectiveness should lead rational, objective people to conclude any vaccine that only provides just a few months of protection should not be described as a medical solution worthy of population-wide use and mandates. And, in terms of ineffectiveness against the delta variant, does it make sense to believe that requiring repeated booster shots of the same vaccines will produce better results?  At best, they may only delay breakthrough infections.

The worsening of health outcomes after vaccination has been interpreted as resulting from damage to the immune system caused by vaccines. This is referred to as Antibody Dependent Enhancement in the medical research literature. It refers to immune system weakening from vaccines.

As to declining vaccine effectiveness it should be noted that two studies from Israel and Qatar that were published in the New England Journal of Medicine supported this threat to the fully vaccinated. And in Israel the rise of COVID-19 cases in fully vaccinated people has been reported. According to Dr. Haviv, the vaccinated account for 85-90% of all new hospitalizations and 95% of “severe” cases at the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem.

There have also been reports that very high fractions of hospital admission in the US are for fully vaccinated people. One whistle blower reported that where she worked that while the vaccination rate was less than 50% in the community, about 90% of hospital admissions had been fully vaccinated.

And it has been reported from several states that 40% of hospitalized COVID patients had been fully vaccinated, including from New York:  Since July 1, nearly 40% of all Onondaga County residents who tested positive for the novel coronavirus had been fully vaccinated.

Recently reported for Maryland was that over the past three months in Anne Arundel County, about 30% of the people hospitalized with COVID are fully vaccinated. In neighboring Howard County health officials said roughly 30% to 40% of people hospitalized with COVID are fully vaccinated. That is a lot of breakthrough infections.

A recent report from Public Health England shows that 163 of the 257 people (63.4%) who died of the delta variant within 28 days of a positive COVID test between February 1 and June 21, had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

A very important finding of the DOD study that in itself deserved attention by mainstream media was that the one variable that explained substantial resistance to serious negative health impacts from breakthrough infections was natural immunity resulting from prior COVID infection.

That governments refuse to credential natural immunity as they increasingly mandate vaccination is a disgraceful rebuttal of medical science. Indeed, there is now indisputable medical evidence that natural immunity is more effective, especially against variants, and longer lasting than vaccine immunity. That this truth is being ignored, and people are losing jobs and livelihoods, is disgraceful. 

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  • Joel Hirschhorn

    Dr. Joel S. Hirschhorn, author of Pandemic Blunder and many articles on the pandemic, worked on health issues for decades. As a full professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he directed a medical research program between the colleges of engineering and medicine. As a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association, he directed major studies on health-related subjects; he testified at over 50 US Senate and House hearings and authored hundreds of articles and op-ed articles in major newspapers. He has served as an executive volunteer at a major hospital for more than 10 years. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and America’s Frontline Doctors.

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