“We can no longer say this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President Cynthia Cox, who conducted the analysis, told The Washington Post.
People who had been vaccinated or boosted made up 58% of COVID-19 deaths in August, the analysis showed. The rate has been on the rise: 23% of coronavirus deaths were among vaccinated people in September 2021, and the vaccinated made up 42% of deaths in January and February 2022, the Post reported.
Research continues to show that people who are vaccinated or boosted have a lower risk of death. The rise in deaths among the vaccinated is the result of three factors, Ms. Cox said.
- A large majority of people in the United States have been vaccinated (267 million people, the said).
- People who are at the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19 are more likely to be vaccinated and boosted, such as the elderly.
- Vaccines lose their effectiveness over time; the virus changes to avoid vaccines; and people need to choose to get boosters to continue to be protected.
The case for the effectiveness of vaccines and boosters versus skipping the shots remains strong. People age 6 months and older who are unvaccinated are six times more likely to die of COVID-19, compared to those who got the primary series of shots, the Post reported. Survival rates were even better with additional booster shots, particularly among older people.
“I feel very confident that if people continue to get vaccinated at good numbers, if people get boosted, we can absolutely have a very safe and healthy holiday season,” Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus czar, said on Nov. 22.
The number of Americans who have gotten the most recent booster has been increasing ahead of the holidays. CDC data show that 12% of the U.S. population age 5 and older has received a booster.
A new study by a team of researchers from Harvard University and Yale University estimates that 94% of the U.S. population has been infected with COVID-19 at least once, leaving just 1 in 20 people who have never had the virus.
“Despite these high exposure numbers, there is still substantial population susceptibility to infection with an Omicron variant,” the authors wrote.
They said that if all states achieved the vaccination levels of Vermont, where 55% of people had at least one booster and 22% got a second one, there would be “an appreciable improvement in population immunity, with greater relative impact for protection against infection versus severe disease. This additional protection results from both the recovery of immunity lost due to waning and the increased effectiveness of the bivalent booster against Omicron infections.”
A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.