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Unvaccinated Arizonans made up 95% of COVID-19 cases in May

More than 95% of COVID-19 cases in May were Arizonans who were not fully vaccinated against the virus, the Arizona Department of Health Services said Friday.

Of the 16,910 people who had confirmed cases last month, about 90% were fully unvaccinated, meaning they hadn't received one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. About 5% were people who had received only one of the two doses or who became sick within two weeks of receiving the second dose, at which point the vaccines are fully effective.

This news comes as vaccine rates have declined sharply in Arizona, leaving ADHS and other public health agencies pushing for more people to get the vaccine.

There has been a decrease in the number of people interested in the COVID vaccines, and ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ previously said that the health department is moving more towards community outreach and "pop-up clinics" to aim for the July 4 70% vaccinated goal set by President Joe Biden.

Christ said she was hopeful the state could still meet the July 4 deadline, but some estimates have shown that Arizona won't reach 70% until later in the summer.

Arizona has a reputation for being vaccine hesitant, with some health officials going as far as labeling the state an anti-vaccine hot spot. State law requires children to be vaccinated to attend school, but parents are able to opt out — and many do.

"We continue to educate," Christ said in a blog post about May's numbers. "Vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19."

However, even those vaccinated can still succumb to the dangers of COVID-19 in rare cases: Of the 771 vaccinated individuals who still contracted the virus, 90 were hospitalized and four died.

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"The extremely rare incidence of these breakthrough COVID-19 infections are reason to get more Arizonans vaccinated," Christ said. "The more people who are protected against COVID-19, the less chance the virus can spread to the one out of 20 people who can be a breakthrough case..

Arizona reported 364 new cases of COVID and 13 deaths June 18. There have been over 888,000 people infected by COVID and more than 17,800 people have died from the virus in Arizona.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.

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Parker Michels-Boyce | Virginia Mercury/States Newsroom

Parker Michels-Boyce | Virginia Mercury/States Newsroom