New COVID infections and hospitalizations keep rising in New Jersey.

The state reported another 1,392 confirmed cases on Tuesday, with 671 COVID patients now hospitalized.

Three weeks ago the New Jersey Health Department reported the COVID vaccines were 99.998% effective in preventing serious illness requiring hospitalization, but with the Delta variant continuing to surge, Health Department data for the last week in July, shows that effectiveness has dipped a bit, down to about 97%.

During that week, 3% of patients admitted to New Jersey hospitals with COVID illness, 11 of the 378 individuals were fully vaccinated.

Dr. Martin Blaser, director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers University, said this is not a surprise.

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“The Delta variant is a variant, it’s not the same as the original virus, and the vaccines were made for the original virus,” he said.

He pointed out “as more variation occurs, it’s possible that the efficacy of the vaccine will go down. The more the virus changes the less effective the vaccine will be.

Dr. Blaser was quick to point out that “right now the vaccine is still very good, and it’s certainly much, much better than no vaccine. I have to keep emphasizing that, even if the vaccines are not 100% protective they are very highly protective, that’s the best protection that people can do.”

Rutgers University infectious disease expert and epidemiologist Dr. Stanley H. Weiss said in order to get truly accurate data on the efficacy of the vaccines with the Delta variant, “you really need a cohort of people or clinical trial to be able to account for everyone and to examine what’s going on.”

He said recent studies in Israel indicate a lower rate of protection against the Delta variant than what is being reported in New Jersey but “vaccination makes a great deal of difference, the chance of becoming seriously ill if you’re not vaccinated is much higher.”

The updated New Jersey Health Department data also showed during the final week in July 18.5% of confirmed COVID infections were in fully vaccinated individuals (803 out of 4,332) and 21 people died from COVID related illness during the last week of July, but none of them were fully vaccinated.

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