A doctor in St. Louis, Missouri, captured the difference in lung health between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients who both tested positive for COVID-19

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COVID-19 lung x-rays show difference getting the vaccine can make
Credit: SSM Health

A doctor in St. Louis, Missouri, is sharing X-ray photos of patients with COVID-19 to show just how effective the vaccine really is. 

Dr. Ghassan Kamel, director of the Medical ICU at SSM Health SLU Hospital in St. Louis, compared two X-rays of his COVID-positive patients, one who is vaccinated and one who is not. In the unvaccinated individual, the image is clouded with white, which Dr. Kamel explained could be bacteria, mucus, or secretions, per local St. Louis station KSDK

"They definitely at least would require oxygen and sometimes they would require more than just oxygen," Dr. Kamel said. "They might require the ventilator or get intubated on mechanical ventilation, sedated, and basically on life support." 

The vaccinated image, however, is much clearer. As Dr. Kamel explained, lungs appear black in an X-ray when they're filled with air. While the unvaccinated individual had a largely white X-ray, the vaccinated patient's image appeared darker, with more black in the picture. 

According to Dr. Kamel, vaccinated individuals who test positive for COVID-19 mostly do not require the intensive care that unvaccinated patients do if they are admitted to the hospital. The doctor told KSDK that vaccinated patients are rarely sent to the ICU or put on life support, unless they have pre-existing conditions or are immunocompromised.

Dr. Ghassan Kamel
Dr. Ghassan Kamel
| Credit: SSM Health

Dr. Kamel hopes that by sharing the images, he'll convince more people to get vaccinated as the Delta variant continues to spread across the country. "If you don't like the mask, you definitely won't like the ventilator," he said. 

The doctor's warning comes as the country is seeing record numbers of COVID-19 cases in some states, including Florida. The CDC has warned that the Delta variant, which now makes up majority of new cases in the U.S., causes more severe illness than previous strains and is as contagious as chickenpox. Even fully vaccinated Americans are now encouraged to wear masks inside in certain high-risk areas of the country.

While cases are climbing, the U.S. is making slight progress in vaccinations, with President Joe Biden reporting on Monday that the nation had reached a 70% vaccination milestone.

"It's incredible progress, but we still have further to go," the president tweeted. "If you haven't already, get vaccinated. Let's defeat this virus once and for all."