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DOH: 97 Percent of COVID-19 Deaths from Unvaccinated Individuals

Breakthrough infections account for just 6 percent of total COVID-19 cases, state says

September 14, 2021

About 97 percent of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 deaths are among unvaccinated individuals, according to a new report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH).

The report, released today, indicated that Pennsylvania’s unvaccinated population also accounted for an overwhelming majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations (95%) and cases (94%).

Pennsylvania Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said the report includes available data from about 80 percent of acute care hospital beds in the state.

The data evaluates reporting from January 1, 2021, through September 7, 2021. Among the key figures from today’s report:

  • Deaths:  97 percent of COVID-19-related deaths were in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. Cumulative death incidence among the unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated was 7.9 times as high as the death incidence among the fully vaccinated
  • Pennsylvania Hospitalizations:  Among 34,468 hospitalizations with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis/cause of admission, just 1,820 (5 percent) were reported in fully vaccinated people
  • Breakthrough Cases:  Only 6 percent of all COVID-19 cases are from breakthrough infections. Cumulative case incidence among the unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated was 7.1 times as high as the case incidence among the fully vaccinated

During a press briefing, Acting Secretary Beam said the state would continue to collect data about COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, including information about the efficacy across the three available COVID-19 vaccines.

The report and new data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) illustrate that the available COVID-19 vaccines continue to be effective against the virus, said Dr. Michael Ripchinski, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital’s chief clinical officer.

Unvaccinated COVID-19 patients tend to require longer stays in the hospital, more assistance with breathing, and time in the intensive care unit, Dr. Ripchinski said. Symptoms tend to be much less severe when breakthrough infections occur among vaccinated individuals, he said.

“Those who are vaccinated are much less likely to be hospitalized or to die compared to those who are not vaccinated,” Dr. Ripchinski.

All 67 Pennsylvania counties have substantial rates of COVID-19 transmission, according to the latest data from the CDC. About 67.2 percent of Pennsylvanians 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

HAP strongly encourages everyone who is eligible to make an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are free, safe, and effective, and are available in your community.

For more information, contact Robert Shipp III, PhD, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.