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McMahon says only 1 percent of county’s vaccinated have had breakthrough COVID cases

By Eric Reinhardt (


A vaccination-clinic sign outside the Oncenter in late February on a day when residents could get their shots. (Eric Reinhardt / CNYBJ file photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon provided some data on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine, along with details of a new testing initiative for school students who become ill with something other than COVID-19.

McMahon spoke during a coronavirus briefing Wednesday afternoon at the John H. Mulroy Civic Center in downtown Syracuse.

Vaccine data

Onondaga County has had 317,906 residents receive the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and 293,452 residents complete the vaccination series of shots.

The county has also reported 3,223 breakthrough cases.

“So, the data says 1.09 percent of those who have been vaccinated with a completed series have turned into a breakthrough case,” McMahon said.

The Pfizer vaccine has been the choice of 65.8 percent of county residents; another 26 percent chose the Moderna vaccine; 8.2 percent opted for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The data indicates that among the local breakthrough cases, the numbers mirror the national averages. The county said 66.7 percent of the local breakthrough cases involve people who received the Pfizer vaccine; 21.1 percent of the cases involve people who got the Moderna vaccine; and 12.2 percent of the breakthrough cases are people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“The question we have gotten is how many vaccinated individuals have we lost? The answer is we’ve lost 14 individuals who’ve been fully vaccinated,” McMahon said.

McMahon’s office also tells CNYBJ that those 14 fully vaccinated deceased were among 42 total people who have died from COVID-19 since Aug. 1. So, the other 28 were unvaccinated.

Doing the math, 14 deaths out of 293,452 fully vaccinated people yields a .0047 percent death rate, he said.

The average age of an unvaccinated person in Onondaga County is 68. The average age of a vaccinated person who dies from COVID is 78.

“The data tells the story that the vaccine is our best tool with this virus to stay out of the hospital, to stay out of the ICU, and the vaccines have still been an incredibly effective tool to prevent COVID overall,” McMahon said.

Cold or allergies COVID testing site

McMahon also announced a new testing initiative This effort is specifically for people in the community who have a child who is sick, with symptoms of a cold or allergy. In such instances, area schools want a negative COVID test to allow the students (or staff members) to return to the classroom, even after the person no longer has symptoms.

To solve that problem the county is offering a rapid-test option.

“This is going to fill that gap. In most cases, through our partnership with Quadrant Biosciences lab, we should have results from the PCR test that evening. So, you go in the morning … our goal is that evening to have the test [result] for you… so you can print that out and bring that into the school with your child,” McMahon said.

The testing site at the Hamilton Street Boys & Girls Club on Syracuse’s west side starts Thursday. The county will operate the site five days a week from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Appointments are required at and users need to select “return to school testing for K-12 students and staff.”

“We realize there’s a challenge with kids who are getting sick with things other than COVID but have similar symptoms. Our goal in this administration is to keep in-person learning going,” McMahon said.

He also reminded school-district leaders that a negative test “should suffice” to let the child back into the building. The child doesn’t need a doctor’s note along with the negative test, he added.

Deaths, cases, hospitalizations

McMahon said the county received word of three additional deaths from COVID-19 in the latest day. Those who died include a male in his 80s with underlying health conditions and two residents of long-term care facilities for whom no demographic information was available.

The county’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 761.

The county executive also reported 158 new virus cases and noted that the trend is that reported cases are from people who are younger.

“It makes sense if you think about it. The younger demographics, specifically kids, are unvaccinated. What we do know from the testing we’re going in the schools, through the surveillance, is that kids are not getting COVID essentially in the schools … mostly at home or in their daily living activities,” McMahon said.

McMahon also reported 88 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 25 in the intensive-care unit (ICU). Of those in the ICU, 92 percent are unvaccinated, he noted.




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