The state health department announced last week that 99.5 percent of people who have died due to COVID-19 in Texas since February were unvaccinated.

At least 43 of the 8,787 people who have died in Texas over that period were fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services said, accounting for .5 percent of deaths. Those deaths were the result of “breakthrough infections,” which DSHS defines as people who contracted the virus two weeks after being fully vaccinated.

The agency said nearly 75 percent of the 43 vaccinated people who died were fighting serious underlying conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer or chronic lung disease. Additionally, it said 95 percent of the 43 vaccinated people who died were 60 or older, and that a majority of them were white and a majority were men.

DSHS noted that these are preliminary numbers, which could change because each case must be confirmed through public health investigations. Statewide, more than 50,000 people have died of COVID-19 since March 2020, but the rate of deaths has slowed dramatically since vaccines became widely available in April.

Dr. David Lakey, the chief medical officer of the University of Texas System, said people succumbing to the coronavirus despite being vaccinated was “not unexpected.”

“No vaccine is 100 percent,” said Lakey, who is also a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force. “And we’ve known for a long while that the vaccines aren’t 100 percent, but they’re really really good at preventing severe disease and hospitalizations. … There will always be some individuals that will succumb to the illness in the absence of full herd immunity.”

He added that 0.5 percent is “a very low number of individuals in a state of 30 million. … In the grand perspective of everything, that’s not a large number that would call into question at all the use of this vaccine.”

As of Monday, 42.8 percent of Texans have been fully vaccinated; the state continues to lag behind the national vaccination rate of 48.8 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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