“These data should not be interpreted to mean that vaccines don’t work,” one expert said.
A growing proportion of COVID-19 deaths is occurring among the vaccinated, a new analysis of federal data from ABC News shows.
As of August 2021, about 18.9% of COVID-19 deaths occurred among those vaccinated. Six months later, in February 2022, that proportional percentage of deaths had risen to more than 40%.
Comparatively, in September 2021, only 1.1% of COVID-19 deaths occurred among Americans who had been fully vaccinated and boosted with their first dose. By February 2022, that percentage had risen to around 25%.
Experts said an increase in breakthrough deaths is expected with more Americans reaching full vaccination status.
“These data should not be interpreted to mean that vaccines don’t work. In fact, these real-world analyzes continue to reaffirm the incredible protection these vaccines provide, especially when updated with boosters,” said Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s. Hospital. and ABC News contributor.
In addition, many vulnerable Americans are more than a year away from receiving their primary vaccines and have not yet received a booster dose.
To date, more than 220 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, 100 million of whom have received their first COVID-19 booster. However, about 91.5 million eligible Americans, about half of those currently eligible, have not yet received their first booster shot.
The rise in advance deaths comes as a growing proportion of older Americans are admitted to the hospital for care related to COVID-19.
Last summer, after the most vulnerable older populations were vaccinated, the proportion of Americans over 65 in the hospital dropped to a pandemic low, with younger populations representing the largest age groups of people needing care. . However, throughout the rise of omicron, the average age of people in hospital with COVID-19 has steadily aged again.
More than 90% of seniors have received all their vaccinations, but a third of them have not yet received their first booster shot. Even with high overall vaccination rates in older populations, in recent months during the omicron surge, 73% of deaths occurred among people 65 years of age and older.
Health experts said vaccinations and boosters continue to provide significant protection against serious illness. However, the decline in immunity reemphasizes the urgency of boosting older Americans and high-risk Americans with additional doses.
“This trend of increased risk among the elderly further supports the need for community-wide immunization. Older populations, especially those with underlying conditions, remain at high risk for serious complications, especially as immunity declines. The best way to protect them is to make sure everyone around them is fully immunized,” Brownstein said.
All Americans age 50 and older, immunocompromised individuals age 12 and older, and people who received two doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine are currently eligible for a second booster.
Approximately 10.5 million people in the US have received their second booster dose.
“Given the fact that immunity is waning, we have to stimulate people,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told GBH News’ Boston Public Radio on Monday.
In February, unvaccinated adults were 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to vaccinated people and five times more likely to require hospitalization, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Compared to fully vaccinated and boosted adults, unvaccinated people were about 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19 and seven times more likely to require hospitalization.