95 Percent of Hospitalized COVID Patients Have This in Common, Doctors Say
There's also been a change in the type of patient since the earlier days of the pandemic.
The national daily average of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has dropped drastically since reaching its peak in January. Now, states are removing some or all of their public health measures and life has begun to return to "normal," but there are still people contracting the virus and becoming seriously ill with the disease. And according to doctors, there's at least one thing that nearly all COVID patients who end up hospitalized have in common lately.
While hospitalizations overall have seen a sharp decline along with case numbers in recent weeks, healthcare providers around the U.S. are finding that the vast majority of patients hospitalized due to COVID are unvaccinated against the virus, USA Today reports. According to a spokesperson for Sanford Health, which manages and runs 44 medical centers and more than 200 clinics across four states in the Midwest, less than five percent of the 1,456 patients who have been admitted for COVID since January have been fully vaccinated.
On a national level, hospital data from the Department of Health and Human Services and vaccination data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also show that states with lower vaccination rates have a higher share of patients in the ICU.
"We're all seeing the same thing—when someone does get sick and comes to the hospital, they're much more likely to be young and unvaccinated," Robert Wachter, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told USA Today.
While fully vaccinated people can still become infected with the virus, studies have shown that currently available vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease. Instead, vaccinated patients that end up hospitalized are usually limited to people with compromised immune systems who may not have seen the full benefit of their shots.
"One of the ones we took care of had cancer, and another was on immunosuppressants for a rheumatologic disease," Todd Rice, MD, director of the medical intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told NBC News.
Unfortunately, some of those hospitalized with severe COVID cases are from one group that's unvaccinated due to regulations: Children under the age of 12. "In our local hospitals, the kids that are getting sick are the ones that are not vaccinated," Natasha Burgert, MD, a pediatrician in Overland Park, Kansas, and a national spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told NBC News.
As vaccination rates have begun to drop nationally, doctors are urging all eligible people to get their shots to ward off severe illness for themselves and protect those in their families who can't yet receive theirs. "The vaccines are working really well," Josh Denson, MD, a pulmonary medicine and critical care physician at Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans, told NBC News. "It's just ridiculous not to get it."