Vaccinated People Still at a High Risk of COVID-19 Complications, Experts Say

Vaccinated People Still at a High Risk of COVID-19 Complications, Experts Say
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According to many medical experts, getting vaccinated is still our best bet against the COVID-19 virus even though there have been some recent cases in which fully vaccinated people got infected and even lost their lives anyway.

The Allegheny County Health Department’s online COVID-19 dashboard does not differentiate between unvaccinated and vaccinated people in its data about deaths caused by the virus but that is not to say it does not collect such info.

When the first lab-confirmed cases of the omicron variant were first reported by Allegheny County on December 23, the health department mentioned that there had been 101 total COVID-caused deaths in the month of December there.

With that being said, it turns out that 73 of those cases that ended in tragedy were unvaccinated while the rest of 28 had been inoculated, as per health officials.

Furthermore, 18 out of the 73 unvaccinated people who died were relatively young, between the ages of 30 and 59.

On the other hand, out of the 28 unvaccinated, no less than 25 were actually elders over the age of 70 years old, the other 3 being over the age of 60.

In other words, they were all in the high risk age category.

A spokesperson for the health department mentioned that the county is still working on including data on whether or not people who pass away as a result of COVID complications were vaccinated.

More precisely, such information is expected to be added to the COVID dashboard following the first of the year.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Debra Bogen, the Allegheny County Health Department Director, the number of infections is actually likely to be higher than what the currently available data suggests.

Bogen stated that “We continue to see increasing numbers of new infections reported to the health department, including reinfections and breakthrough cases. We know this number is an under reporting because many people are using home tests. We know that the omicron variant spreads efficiently and is the likely cause of the rapidly rising case numbers. I anticipate that the number of cases will continue to rise in the coming weeks.”

The latest data states that almost 918,000 residents of this county have received at least one dose of the vaccine while nearly 300,000 of them have even received their booster shots, meaning that they are fully vaccinated.

As per a vaccination data report from December 13, issued by the state Health Department, the number of cases that involve inoculated patients has been increasing at the level of the state lately.

Cases involving fully vaccinated people since the beginning of 2021 and up until now, account for around 15 percent of all positive COVID tests.

It is important to note, however, that the vaccines had not become available to the general public until months into the year that is about to end.

In the meantime, starting with the month of October, cases of vaccinated people getting infected have risen, accounting for about 26 percent of all positive tests that month and 31 percent in the month of November.

Similarly, hospitalizations of vaccinated people have also been increasing although to a very small extent in the last three months.

This increase now accounts for around 25 percent of all COVID caused hospitalizations in the state, as per the latest data provided to the public.

And, as it turns out, experts are not exactly surprised by the fact that a significant number of vaccinated people have still been killed by the virus.

Dr. Amesh Adalja explains why that is, saying that some fully vaccinated citizens are still at a relatively high risk of passing from COVID due to their underlying health problems.

“It’s not a false sense of security that the vaccine protects people who are healthy and have no underlying medical problems. The people who are dying are in the high-risk population.”

He went on to mention that in the cases of people suffering from cancer, who have received organ transplants or suffer from any other serious medical issues, the COVID risks are the same as with any other condition that affects the respiratory system such as the flu!

“Covid preys on individuals who have other medical problems, and it will continue to prey on them. But for the people who are fully vaccinated and have no underlying issues, this is going to be an innocuous illness for them.”

But the medical specialist made sure to also point out that even fully vaccinated and healthy people should still be careful about getting exposed to COVID.

This is because, while they are unlikely to get ill, they can still spread the virus to other people who have a greater risk of serious complications, hospitalization and even death.

Dr. Carol Fox, the chief medical officer for Excela Health which is the main medical provider in Westmoreland County, also stated that fully vaccinated people might still test positive for COVID due to the fact that “immunity wanes after a period of time after infection, as well as after the initial series of vaccinations.”

She then mentioned that the omicron strain of the virus, which is now considered the dominant variant of concern in the United States, is “likely to be the culprit” for the increase of infection numbers since it is highly infectious.

According to Fox, as of December 22, Excela was treating 91 COVID patients.

Out of those, 88 percent were either unvaccinated or had received only the first dose of the vaccine.

Even more conclusive for the efficiency of vaccinations, absolutely all the patients that were in such a bad condition that they needed ventilators to assist with their breathing were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

As a result, Fox stressed that “Vaccines do not prevent 100% of infections. They do, however, do well at limiting the degree of illness that is produced when one becomes infected. That is why boosters are so important.”

It has to be mentioned that Excela does not, however, ask all of their patients whether they had been vaccinated or not upon arriving there.

Fox did note that out of all the people tested at the health system’s 3 hospitals in the month of December, 86 percent were not fully vaccinated.

Bogen points out that the rising number of infections should be considered a good reason for people to protect themselves as well as they can.

“I ask everyone to take this seriously and do their part to slow the spread of this virus. Most importantly, please get your vaccines or your booster vaccine. Second, wear a properly fitting mask when out in public, especially indoors,” she states.

She also said that people should now seriously consider wearing two surgical masks, a surgical mask covered by a cloth one or, better yet, a KN95 mask.

Another thing she pointed out is that businesses can also do their part in slowing down the spread of COVID by asking all of their employees and customers to wear masks.

Bogen also encouraged everyone to social distance, stay at home if they are ill and avoid large gatherings as much as possible in order to reduce the spread of the virus.

“Get tested if you are experiencing covid-19 symptoms. If you have been in close contact of someone who has tested positive for covid, get tested five to seven days after that exposure,” she concluded.


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Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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