New data from Massachusetts public health officials reveals that a significant majority of fully vaccinated people who died after a coronavirus breakthrough infection had underlying conditions that made them more likely to have a severe case.

Also, the median age of Massachusetts vaccine breakthrough cases who died has been 82.5 years, according to the new data from the state Department of Public Health.

There have been 100 breakthrough case deaths in the Bay State, which is 0.002% of all fully vaccinated individuals, or about two for every 100,000 residents who got their shots. More than 4.3 million people in the state have been fully vaccinated.

Of the 100 breakthrough case deaths, 73% of these cases were reported to have underlying conditions that made them more likely to have severe disease.

Overall, there have been 395 breakthrough hospitalizations, which is 0.009% of all fully vaccinated individuals. Of the 395 hospitalizations, 57% of these patients were reported to have underlying conditions.

This new data is comparable to the data of breakthrough cases in other countries, said Davidson Hamer, a Boston University specialist in infectious diseases.

“The breakthrough cases that are sick enough to be hospitalized is generally older people and those with underlying conditions and who are immunocompromised,” Hamer said. “So the people who need to be really careful right now is older people and those who have underlying conditions and those who are immunocompromised.”

Breakthrough cases have been rising in Massachusetts in recent weeks amid the spread of the more highly contagious delta variant.

The state last week reported that 7,737 fully vaccinated people have tested positive for COVID-19, a jump of 1,364 cases in one week, or a daily average of 195 cases.

The 7,737 breakthrough cases is 0.18% of the 4.3 million fully vaccinated people in Massachusetts.

“Breakthrough cases in Massachusetts are incredibly low, and those hospitalized or who have died are even lower,” the DPH said in a statement. “All available data continue to support that all 3 vaccines used in the US are highly protective against severe disease and death from all known variants of COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.”

Deaths from breakthrough infections is “very uncommon,” said Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Health.

“But when it happens, it’s usually those who are elderly or immunocompromised,” Ellerin said, stressing, “The vaccine has shown that it’s been extremely protective in the elderly.”

Booster shots could be coming soon for certain groups.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on “Meet The Press” Sunday that those who are immunocompromised and got vaccinated, “likely never got a good response to begin with.”

“For those individuals, I am strongly in favor of getting them that additional shot as soon as possible,” said Fauci, who serves as chief medical adviser to President Biden.

Those who are elderly will likely get a booster before other groups, Fauci said, based on data of the vaccine’s effectiveness over time.


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