DPHHS report says unvaccinated more likely to be hospitalized, die from COVID

The Montana Department of Health and Human Services released a new report on Sept. 27 with state-specific data from the past eight months that “illustrates the best tool against serious illness from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.”

The report reviewed data from February to September 2021, and found that 89.5 percent of the cases, 88.6 percent of hospitalizations and 83.5 percent of the deaths were among persons not fully vaccinated, including those not yet eligible for vaccination, according to DPHHS.

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The report also examined a recent eight-week period from July 11 to Sept. 4 and found that among all cases reported in persons eligible for vaccine, that Montanans who were not fully vaccinated contracted COVID-19 at a rate 4.4 times greater than fully vaccinated persons, according to DPHHS.

The report also found COVID-19-associated hospitalization and death rates were 5.1 and 3.3 times greater, respectively, among not fully vaccinated persons as compared with fully vaccinated persons.

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“The data are overwhelming. The COVID-19 vaccine offers the best protection against infection and at preventing severe illness,” DPHHS Director Adam Meier said in a release. “Clinical trials have found that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19-related outcomes. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated and still have questions, I encourage all eligible Montanans to consult with their healthcare provider or pharmacist.”

As of Sept. 27, according to state data, 67,764 doses of the vaccine had been administered in Cascade County and 33,442 people, 49 percent of the eligible population, had been fully immunized.

DPHHS public health experts also noted the impact of COVID-19 disease on younger age groups, according to a release.

Adults aged 18-39 had the highest number of COVID-19 cases compared with other age groups among both the fully vaccinated and unvaccinated. Adults in this age group who were not fully vaccinated experienced case rates 4.4 times higher than fully vaccinated persons in this age group, according to DPHHS.

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DPHHS data also show a notable age gap between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals with severe COVID-19 related outcomes, with severe outcomes occurring at younger ages among those not fully vaccinated compared with fully vaccinated individuals. In a recent eight-week period, the median age for COVID-19 hospitalizations was 60 years for not fully vaccinated and the median age among those fully vaccinated was 75 years.

COVID-19 infections among fully vaccinated persons are called breakthrough cases, which is defined as a COVID-19 infection which occurred 14 or more days after completing the primary COVID-19 vaccine series. Depending on the specific vaccine administered, completion of series could be one or two doses of vaccine.

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Statewide, there had been 5,131 confirmed breakthrough cases as of Sept. 21 since February. Statewide, as of Sept. 27, there are 485,319 fully vaccinated people in Montana, according to state data.

Of those statewide breakthrough cases, there were 308 hospitalizations and 57 deaths.

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In Cascade County, there have been 502 total breakthrough cases as of Sept. 22 since February, according to the City-County Health Department.

It’s important that all Montanans take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“In addition to encouraging vaccination, DPHHS encourages all Montana residents and visitors to exercise personal responsibility and take precautionary measures to slow the spread of the virus, including wearing a face covering when appropriate, avoiding large crowds, staying home when not feeling well, and washing hands frequently,” DPHHS acting State Medical Officer Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek said in a release.

For vaccine information, go to covidvaccine.mt.gov or text their zip code to GETVAX (438829) for the nearest location.