People hospitalized with COVID-19 now have one overwhelming thing in common

In Minnesota, the HealthPartners system has seen a precipitous decline in hospitalizations for COVID-19, says Dr. Mark Sannes, infectious disease physician and senior medical director for the system, which operates nine hospitals and more than 55 clinics. But now, almost all the admitted patients he sees are not vaccinated.

Less than 1% of our hospitalized COVID patients are vaccinated, he said.

In Ohio, at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, only 2% of COVID-19 patients admitted in the past month were vaccinated, said Dr. Robert Salata, the hospital’s chief physician.

And at Sanford Health, which runs 44 medical centers and more than 200 clinics in Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa, less than 5% of the 1,456 patients admitted with COVID-19 so far this year were fully vaccinated, spokeswoman Angela Dejene said. .

The declining rates of COVID-19 in the United States mask a stark reality: The overwhelming majority of those who become ill and hospitalized today are not vaccinated, while vaccinated patients are increasingly rare.

Hospitals in states with the lowest vaccination rates tend to have more COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, according to hospital data collected last week by the Department of Health and Human Services and published vaccination rates. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .

Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas, and Idaho currently have the highest percentage of COVID-19 patients on average in their ICUs; all of these states have vaccinated less than 40% of their population.

The medical centers say there is also an obvious change in the age of their sickest patients, as older people are much more likely to be vaccinated than younger ones.

We’re all seeing the same thing: When someone gets sick and comes to the hospital, they’re much more likely to be young and unvaccinated, said Dr. Robert Wachter, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Cathy Bennett, president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, said the situation is the same in her state.

As COVID vaccines were rolled out in New Jersey, there has been a major change in the ages of patients admitted to the hospital, she said Bennett. Unlike last spring, when those over 65 accounted for the majority of hospitalizations, we now see more young people hospitalized with COVID.

Doctors say there are several reasons why people are not yet vaccinated. There are the hesitant, who still have questions and are sometimes victims of misinformation, and the opposites, who often harbor anti-government or anti-science sentiments.

We have had a bit of success when we talk to them one-on-one. We can give them the information they need to make a decision, said Dr. Gerald Maloney, medical director of hospital services for the Geisinger Health Network, which runs nine hospitals in Pennsylvania.

Some still cannot easily access the vaccine, either because it is not available nearby or because they cannot get time off from work.

And while the US government paid for all vaccines and vaccines so no one is charged, others remain fearful of being on the financial hook for an injection, Maloney said.

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra clarified in a letter that providers cannot bill patients for COVID-19 vaccines.

Much work remains to be done to build the confidence necessary for these groups to embrace vaccination, Maloney said.

People who say, ‘Is it my body, my choice?’ Well, it’s not just about you, he said. It’s also about the people you’re with.

At this point, each vaccine is a victory, one more person who cannot transmit the virus. That is especially true in families where children cannot be vaccinated and are still at risk.

At Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, we have not seen any children who have been admitted to the hospital and have been vaccinated, said Dr. Michael Bigham, a pediatric intensivist in the intensive care unit.

Among children 11 years and younger who cannot yet receive the vaccine, having family members vaccinated keeps them out of the hospital and protects them against MIS-C, the multisystem inflammatory syndrome that can be a rare but rare side effect. dangerous from a COVID. -19 infection in children.

Most of the children we are seeing in the hospital with COVID or MIS-C had COVID in their home, perhaps a parent or grandparent, and most of those people had not been vaccinated, he said.

The message from healthcare workers is unanimous: they just don’t see many vaccinated people getting sick.

In New Jersey, the percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations among 18-29 year olds has increased 58% since the beginning of the year. By comparison, the percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations among the 65 and older group, with a statewide vaccination rate of more than 80%, decreased by 31.2%.

The numbers are not a coincidence, Bennett said.

Vaccination, she said, works to prevent severe COVID disease.

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