These graphs show that COVID-19 remains a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated
In the summer of 2021, as the Delta variant spread across the country, Americans’ experience with COVID-19 split in two. Among those vaccinated, morbidity is low and deaths are rare; At the same time, people without immunity get sick and die at an alarming rate. COVID-19 has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
Then, in December, Omicron appeared. Cases have increased in recent weeks, blowing past records set during the Delta wave. Driving this trend is Omicron’s extreme transmissibility, combined with impaired immunity in vaccinated individuals who are showing symptoms. breakthrough infection. With cases rising between both the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups, it appears that the gap between the two groups is narrowing – and “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is now a misnomer.
But that’s not it. Studies from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson showed that the vaccine continued to protect against severe disease. And the Omicron-matched boosters are the same as the Delta-matched initial vaccine regimens. Anecdotal evidence and recent hospital admission data are supporting this.
“We are seeing breakthrough infections at much higher rates,” said Chris Ruder, executive director of the Kansas City division of the University of Kansas Health System. “However, vaccinated individuals are not generally hospitalized individuals.”
At the national level, the picture of hospitalizations is incomplete, as not all states openly track patient immunization status and these conditions are not always consistent and therefore cannot be compared side by side. For example, states account for partial immunization in different ways and may exclude children from their analysis or track hospitalizations only in select counties.
Of the states that publish recent statistics on a regular basis, providing visibility into Omicron wave hospitalizations, some report hospitalizations per capita, as shown in the chart below. map below:
Other states report the ratio of vaccinated to unvaccinated status among hospitalized patients, as shown in the next graph:
Methodological differences aside, broad trends indicate that the situation in Ruder’s own hospital system is playing out across the country. Unvaccinated Americans in every region are still driving this pandemic.
To be sure, the number of vaccinated patients in the hospital has increased since Omicron arrived. Recent studies shows that immunity to vaccines declines over time, meaning that people who were first vaccinated last year may be less protected now than people who were vaccinated more recently. Enhanced shot strengthens the immune system, but many people did not receive a booster when Omicron first appeared. In mid-November, just before this variant had established a foothold in many parts of the country, less than half of eligible seniors– out of 87% of people who were fully vaccinated at the time – had a booster shot.
What’s more, most patients hospitalized with breakthrough infections in recent weeks had underlying health conditions. Take, for example, 128 COVID-19 patients at Michigan Medicine, a hospital system affiliated with the University of Michigan, on Jan. 10. Of the 49 vaccinated patients, only 9 were younger than 65 years of age, no immunocompromised and without significant underlying lung disease. Of the 79 unvaccinated patients, 34 were similarly young and healthy.
In New York, one of the first states to be affected by the Omicron wave, both vaccinated and unvaccinated have seen increases in severe COVID-19 cases — but the gap in rates Hospitalization rates between the two groups are effectively increasing. Before mid-November, unvaccinated New Yorkers were hospitalized with COVID-19 at about 10 times the rate of their vaccinated neighbors. But since then, they’re 14 times more likely to be hospitalized.
Even as hospital admissions continue to rise, some are resistant to booster shots, with about 20% of vaccinated adults reporting they “probably won’t” or “definitely won’t.” “vaccinated” November KFF survey. And there are still many Americans who continue to shun the COVID-19 vaccine altogether.
Research — powered by the real world data from South Africa-Shows Symptoms of omicron Less severe may lead people to believe that injections are not needed to combat this wave. (In the United States, the picture is still fuzzy — especially since some parts of the country are still experiencing both Delta and Omicron.) The problem with this argument is that even the hospitalization rates among those who are infected. Omicrons are lower than in past variations, a massive increase in cases resulting in more hospitalizations than ever before. Earlier this month, America recorded more COVID-19 hospitalizations compared to last year’s peak, before the vaccine became widely available.
This overwhelming influx of patients overwhelms hospitals, which are too thin to accept non-COVID patients who may need emergency care due to a heart attack or stroke or a car accident. “The number of beds and resources caring for COVID patients is reducing our ability to take care of the extraordinary things that happen every day,” says Ruder.
Plus, the problem is that health care workers are in short supply. In early September, the American Nurses Association called on the Biden Administration to declare the nurse shortage a national crisis. The White House didn’t follow through and since then, it’s only gotten worse as some systems loss of staff who are unwilling to comply with vaccine regulations that have been introduced in recent months. And since Omicron spiked, large numbers of healthcare workers get vaccinated — 70% of hospital staff been vaccinated as of mid-September — has shown positive results at some point, further reducing the workforce along the way.
Nineteen states are grappling with severe staff shortages at a quarter of their hospitals as of January 10, according to TIME data analysis from US Department of Health & Human Services. That’s up from 13 states at the start of December. The situation is particularly dire in New Mexico, Vermont and Rhode Island, where at least half of the hospitals have fallen critically ill on staff.
Ruder was not limited in words when describing the situation in the Kansas City area. “In smaller hospitals and in small rural communities, we fully know — and have confirmed — that patients cannot be transferred to higher levels of care. [at larger hospitals] because there is no bed. There are not enough personnel. There are not enough resources. And the patient is dying.”