Almost All COVID-Related Deaths in the U.S. Are Now Among Unvaccinated People

In addition to making up only .8% of COVID-related deaths, fully vaccinated people comprised about .1% of COVID-related hospitalizations, according to government data analyzed by the Associated Press

Man refuses to receive the vaccine
Man refusing vaccine. Photo: Getty Images

The majority of deaths related to COVID-19 in the U.S. are now being reported as people who haven't been vaccinated against the virus, according to government data analyzed by the Associated Press.

The AP reported Thursday that only about .8% of deaths related to the virus last month occurred in fully vaccinated people, or about 150 of 18,000 total.

Similarly, 1,200 of the 853,000 COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the U.S. — or around just .1% — were people who were fully vaccinated.

The AP noted that hospitalization and death percentages in fully vaccinated people from the May data, which they retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has not been estimated by the CDC itself, as the group cited "limitations in the data."

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Person refusing vaccine. Getty Images

The information comes as the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading throughout the nation. In the past week, as of Wednesday, cases from the variant had doubled — up to 20.6% — and federal health experts expect it to become the dominant strain over the next few weeks.

First identified in India, the Delta variant has spread faster than other strains and led to more hospitalizations, though it does not appear to be more deadly. Testing also shows that the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are nearly fully effective against the Delta strain, preventing infection in around 94% of fully vaccinated people.

"The Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said during a White House briefing on Tuesday.

"The news that's so important is that the vaccines that we have now, that we've done so well in distributing … over 65% of the adult population has received at least one dose. We're doing well with a vaccine that does quite well against this problematic variant," Fauci, 80, told Savannah Guthrie Wednesday morning on the Today show.

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COVID-19 vaccine. APU GOMES/AFP via Getty

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Despite scientists' and health organizations' repeated insistence of the vaccines' efficacy and safety, many — including those in the health-care industry — are still forgoing the shots.

Earlier this month, 178 workers in the Houston Methodist Hospital system were suspended without pay for failing to comply with their requirement that all employees get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The requirement was announced in April, and workers had until June 7 to comply.

After the two-week suspension period, 153 employees were either terminated or stepped away Tuesday, a Houston Methodist Hospital system spokesperson told NPR. (A spokesperson for the hospital system did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.)

As of Friday morning, more than half of the U.S. population, or 53.7% of Americans, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 45.6% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Of the vaccine-eligible Americans (meaning those aged 12 and up), 62.8% have received at least one dose and 53.3% are fully vaccinated.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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