DOH: Data shows unvaccinated people comprise majority of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Pennsylvania
A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a
clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading
Commonwealth media Services
Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam speaks during a news
conference in Lancaster Tuesday.
Data released by the Department of Health Tuesday shows that unvaccinated people make up the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state between Jan. 1, 2021, and Sept. 7.
According to the data, 94% of the reported cases of COVID-19 in that time period were among unvaccinated or people who were not fully vaccinated. Vaccinated people accounted for 6%, or, 35,389, of the 639,729 positive cases identified in that time frame.
COVID vaccine distribution began in Pennsylvania in mid-December.
Data on hospitalizations comes from 55% of all hospitals and 69% of acute care hospitals in Pennsylvania, but Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam noted in a news conference Tuesday in Lancaster that the data covers 80% of the hospital beds.
Monday's Penn State Health update shows 92 total COVID cases in the health system's four hospitals — 14 from fully-vaccinated individuals and 78 from non-vaccinated or unknown status patients.
That data shows that 95% of reported COVID-19 hospitalizations were among unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. A total of 34,468 people have been hospitalized between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7. Of that number, only 1,820 were fully vaccinated.
“My hope is is that this data encourages everyone who has not been vaccinated to speak to their doctor about getting the vaccine as soon as possible,” Beam said.
“The data that we have is showing once again that even as the more transmissible delta becomes more widespread, the COVID vaccines are safe, are effective and help prevent serious illness and death,” she said.
Penn State Health on Monday unveiled a dashboard detailing statistics concerning hospitalizations among its four hospitals, including Holy Spirit Medical Center in Camp Hill.
There are currently 20 unvaccinated patients hospitalized at Holy Spirit, according to data updated Monday. Of those, five are in critical care and three are on ventilators. By contrast, the medical center has four vaccinated COVID-19 patients with one in critical care and one on a ventilator.
The numbers are more dramatic in the system as a whole. Of the 92 COVID-19 patients in a Penn State Health facility, 78 are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. Of those, 25 are in the ICU and 14 are on ventilators. Of the 14 fully-vaccinated patients, two are in an ICU and one is on a ventilator.
There’s also a difference in the average age of admitted patients based on vaccination status. Dr. Michael Ripchinski, chief clinical officer for Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, said the average age of unvaccinated patients admitted to Lancaster General is 56 while the average age of the vaccinated is 71.
The data released by the Department of Health also shows that 97% of COVID-related deaths between Jan. 1 and Sept. 7 were among unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. Of the 6,472 deaths reported in that time frame, only 213 were among fully vaccinated people.
“Compared to unvaccinated people, fully vaccinated folks are 8 times less likely to die of COVID-19,” Beam said.
Health officials say the data shows that vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths at a time when the health care system is facing a surge in cases.
“Hospitals are taxed right now. The number one thing we do is get vaccinated so we don’t tax these hospitals further,” Beam said.
Ripchinski said he’s “absolutely concerned” about the surge in Lancaster County that averages 80 hospitalizations per hospital and equals the surge last April. Central Pennsylvania, as a whole, features a positivity rate above 10% and incidence rates at or near 200 per 100,000.
To be in control, the Department of Health wants to see that rate at 50 out of 100,000.
DeFoor said the waiver program was thrown together in haste and suffered from a lack of uniformity, clarity and transparency.
“Vaccines provide us with a way out of this. Vaccines enable us to return to normal,” Ripchinski said.
Top GOP lawmakers had requested the data on breakthroughs. The Republicans, who have been skeptical of Wolf’s pandemic measures — including, most recently, his statewide mask mandate for schools — wrote to Wolf last week that “all Pennsylvanians, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, deserve to know how their respective group is performing.”
Wolf promised his administration would release the information, and went further.
Noting that vaccination efforts are lagging in some areas of the state — including those with GOP representation — he vowed to release vaccination reports by legislative district “so that the General Assembly and public can better understand how well each member’s district is performing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.