RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — More than 99-percent of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina in May and June occurred in people who weren’t fully vaccinated, according to state data.
In perhaps the strongest evidence yet for the effectiveness of vaccines, the state Department of Health and Human Services said nearly 99-percent of COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths also involved those not fully vaccinated.
“It makes sense that the people who are coming to the hospital with COVID are the ones who are not vaccinated,” Dr. Michael Smith, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Duke University, said. “You have multiple, very effective vaccines…why might you get hospitalized with COVID at this stage in 2021? Well, either you got the vaccine and it doesn’t work, or you’re not vaccinated.”
He continued, “And it turns out these vaccines work really well, so if you’re vaccinated, you’re very protected. Who’s left standing? It’s the folks who aren’t vaccinated.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said more than 99-percent of recent COVID-19 deaths involved the unvaccinated. Additionally, health leaders in Maryland said 100 percent of COVID deaths in their state in June were people who hadn’t gotten the shots.
But the data — posted on a slide in a DHHS presentation to North Carolina’s state Board of Education during its meeting — are the first available at the state level..
According to the data, from May 6-June 28, people who aren’t fully vaccinated accounted for:
— 99.2 percent of cases.
— 98.7 percent of hospital admissions.
— 98.9 percent of COVID deaths.
This data covers a wider time frame and support a claim made last week by Dr. Mandy Cohen.
“Nearly all of the cases are from those who are unvaccinated,” Cohen said June 28 during a news conference introducing the winners of the first vaccine lottery drawing in the state. “So it will flow through that nearly all the hospitalizations and, sadly, nearly all the deaths are from folks who are unvaccinated.”
State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson told CBS 17 that the real-world vaccine efficacy numbers are “even more promising” than those in clinical trials.
“Nothing’s 100-percent,” Tilson said. “But boy, this is pretty darn close to 100-percent.”
But what about that remaining 1-percent?
Tilson said concern about joining that number is no reason to avoid getting the vaccine.
“We talked about those breakthroughs, and our breakthroughs consistently have been less than 1-percent of our total cases,” Tilson said. “So we expect it. It’s not concerning.”
Tilson added “Even if you get an infection, again, your chance of having severe illness is greatly reduced.”
Furthermore, Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said he’s seeing the same thing at his hospital.
“They are largely unvaccinated — almost all,” he said, adding that those who have not gotten the shots tend to be younger.
“When they’re vaccinated, that really is the bulletproof vest against getting really sick or dying,” he said.