Almost all deaths from COVID-19 in the United States are now in people who have not been vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of vaccine effectiveness and an indication that deaths per day – now below 300 – could be virtually zero if everyone was eligible to get the vaccine.
An Associated Press analysis of available government data from May shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for less than 1,200 hospitalizations out of more than 853,000 COVID-19. It’s about 0.1%.
And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 deaths from COVID-19 in May were in people who were fully vaccinated. This translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average.
The AP analyzed figures provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC itself did not estimate the percentage of hospitalizations and deaths among fully vaccinated people, citing limitations in the data.
Among them: Only about 45 states report breakthrough infections, and some are more aggressive than others in finding such cases. The data therefore likely underestimates these infections, CDC officials said.
Yet the overall trend emerging from the data echoes what many health authorities are seeing across the country and what top experts are saying.
Earlier this month, Andy Slavitt, former Biden administration adviser on COVID-19, suggested that 98% to 99% of Americans dying from the coronavirus are not vaccinated.
And CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday that the vaccine is so effective that “almost all deaths, especially in adults, from COVID-19 are, at this stage, completely preventable.” She called these deaths “particularly tragic”.
In the United States, deaths fell from a peak of more than 3,400 days on average in mid-January, a month after the start of the vaccination campaign.
About 63% of all Americans eligible for the vaccine – those 12 and older – have received at least one dose, and 53% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. While vaccines remain scarce in much of the world, the U.S. supply is so plentiful and demand has collapsed so dramatically that injections go unused.
Ross Bagne, a 68-year-old small business owner in Cheyenne, Wyoming, was eligible for the vaccine in early February but did not receive it. He died on June 4, infected and unvaccinated, after spending more than three weeks in hospital, his lungs filling with fluid. He was unable to swallow due to a stroke.
“He never came out, so he didn’t think he would catch it,” said his grieving sister, Karen McKnight. She asked herself, “Why take the risk of not getting vaccinated?”
Preventable deaths will continue, experts predict, with unvaccinated pockets of the nation experiencing epidemics in the fall and winter. Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics science at the University of Washington in Seattle, said modeling suggests the country will again hit 1,000 deaths per day next year.
In Arkansas, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with only about 33% of the population fully protected, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise.
“It’s sad to see someone go to the hospital or die when it can be avoided,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson tweeted, urging people to get vaccinated.
In Seattle’s King County, the public health department has found only three deaths in a recent 60-day period among fully vaccinated people. The remainder, about 95% of the 62 deaths, had had no vaccine or a single injection.
“It’s all of someone’s parents, grandparents, siblings and friends,” said Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, who helps run an immunization awareness program in King County. “There are still a lot of deaths, and these are preventable deaths. “
In the St. Louis area, more than 90% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated, said Dr Alex Garza, a hospital administrator who heads a metropolitan area task force on l ‘epidemic.
“The majority of them express some regret that they were not vaccinated,” Garza said. “It’s a pretty common refrain we hear from COVID patients. “
Stories of deaths of unvaccinated people may convince some people that they should get vaccinated, but young adults – the group least likely to be vaccinated – may be more motivated by a desire to protect their loved ones, David said. Michaels, epidemiologist at George Washington. The National Capital University School of Public Health.
Others need paid time off to get vaccinated and deal with side effects, Michaels said.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration this month began requiring health care employers, including hospitals and nursing homes, to grant such time off. But Michaels, who led OSHA under President Barack Obama, said the agency should have gone further and applied the rule to meat and poultry factories and other food operations as well as to other places where workers are at risk.
Bagne, who lived alone, ran a business helping people incorporate their businesses in Wyoming for tax benefits. He was ending the business, planning to retire, when he fell ill, emailing his sister in April about an illness that had left him dizzy and disoriented.
“It didn’t matter what it was. This bug took a lot from me, ”he wrote.
As his health deteriorated, a neighbor finally persuaded him to go to the hospital.
“Why was the message in his condition so unclear that he didn’t understand the importance of the vaccine?” He was a very bright guy, ”his sister said. “I wish he had been vaccinated, and I’m sad he didn’t understand how that could prevent him from contracting COVID. “
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.