Majority of COVID Hospitalizations Occurring Among People Who Aren't Vaccinated, Doctors Say

While the number of COVID hospitalizations continues to decrease, most patients admitted for complications from the virus have not been vaccinated, according to doctors

Medical Workers Inside Maryland Hospital Work During Coronavirus Pandemic
Medical workers prepare to help coronavirus patient in busy hospital. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty

Although COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued to decrease amid widespread vaccine distribution, unvaccinated people are still at risk of more serious health problems from the virus.

Multiple doctors told NBC News that the majority of people being admitted to the hospitals that they work for have not been vaccinated. "I haven't had anyone that's been fully vaccinated become critically ill," said Tulane University Medical Center's Dr. Josh Denson.

"None of our ICU patients has been vaccinated," added Dr. Ken Lyn-Kew, a pulmonologist who works at Denver's National Jewish Health, noting that some of his hospitalized patients thought that a previous illness made vaccination unnecessary. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everybody get vaccinated against COVID-19, even if they have previously contracted it.)

"They thought they were sick from COVID, but they weren't. And they have the mindset of, 'Oh, I don't need to get vaccinated because of that,' " Lyn-Kew said. "They're gravely mistaken."

Additionally, recent analysis from The Washington Post found that states with lower rates of vaccination have significantly higher rates of hospitalization.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of getting 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4, though inoculations have slowed in recent weeks, in part because southern states are lagging behind.

In the United States, 52.5% of the total population have received at least one dose of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines, and 44% are fully vaccinated as of June 10, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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A study released earlier this month by the CDC found that among people who are fully vaccinated, the risk of COVID-19 infection was reduced by 91%. Additionally, the risk of infection among those who were partially vaccinated was 81% lower.

The new study involved almost 4,000 essential workers who completed weekly testing for 17 weeks from December to April.

Researchers also found that participants who did contract the virus experienced milder symptoms.

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"Fully or partially vaccinated people who developed COVID-19 spent on average six fewer total days sick and two fewer days sick in bed," the study states. "They also had about a 60 percent lower risk of developing symptoms, like fever or chills, compared to those who were unvaccinated."

"COVID-19 vaccines are a critical tool in overcoming this pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, said in a statement. "Findings from the extended timeframe of this study add to accumulating evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are effective and should prevent most infections — but that fully vaccinated people who still get COVID-19 are likely to have milder, shorter illness and appear to be less likely to spread the virus to others. These benefits are another important reason to get vaccinated."

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