NY Releases Data On COVID Breakthrough Infections, Unvaccinated Make Up 21 Times More Hospitalizations

Vaccinated New Yorkers make up just 4% of COVID-19 infections so far this year, according to data provided by the New York State Department of Health. Unvaccinated people were 21 times as likely to be infected or hospitalized statewide. The trends offer another strong indication that the vaccines saved tens of thousands of people this year from severe disease.

Of the nearly 1.3 million COVID infections recorded in New York between January 1st and September 5th, just 58,030 involved breakthrough infections, where the virus thwarts a person’s vaccine-backed immunity. The state health department recorded 4,585 hospitalizations among fully vaccinated people, while unvaccinated residents accounted for 97,244 emergency visits.

This breakdown would mean, so far this year, the shots reduced the chances of being infected or hospitalized by 95%, which is in line with the vaccine effectiveness measured in clinical trials.

The new data obtained by WNYC/Gothamist follows a study published last month by the New York Health Department and researchers from the University at Albany School of Public Health. It looked at COVID cases from May to July, as the delta variant went from causing fewer than 2% of cases to more than 80% in the New York region. Vaccination coverage increased from 40% to 65% over the same timeframe.

That study measured the weekly impacts of the inoculations, showing that as delta variant became more prominent, the vaccine effectiveness against catching the virus went from 90% to 79%. But the protection against hospitalization remained intact, ranging from 91% to 95% over these spring and summer months.

Prior to this study, New York state had not previously reported any data on breakthrough infections, though about half of the nation was doing so, according to a July analysis from KFF. Dr. Denis Nash, an epidemiology professor at the City University of New York called the state’s August study “highly significant,” adding that its statistics reiterate that the vaccines continue to be effective against the worst outcomes from the Delta variant.

“This is a robust analysis that really demonstrates how powerfully effective these vaccines are against hospitalization,” said Nash. The findings also indicate that booster shots might not be as necessary as previously thought.

“It does seem to suggest that vaccine efficacy is pretty robust even far out after the vaccine campaign started,” he said. Conversely, Nash said, the study highlights that “if you’re not vaccinated, you’re at very high risk of being hospitalized with severe COVID.”

New York’s newly released figures jive with a separate analysis, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published Friday. It found that among 600,000 COVID-19 cases recorded across 13 U.S. jurisdictions between April 4th and July 17th, unvaccinated people were 5 times as likely to be infected, 10 times as likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die than fully inoculated people.

“The bottom line is this,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, speaking at a Friday press conference. “Vaccination works and will protect us from the severe complications of COVID-19.”

Under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York State’s Health Department had been tight-lipped about releasing COVID-19 data, and good government groups and other experts had long been calling for more access. Upon taking office last month, Gov. Kathy Hochul promised more transparency and immediately revised the state’s pandemic death toll up by 12,000 people.

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