Unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19, says U.S. CDC

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New U.S. studies released Friday show COVID-19 vaccines remained highly effective against hospitalizations and death even as the extra-contagious delta variant swept the country.

A soldier is administered a COVID-19 vaccine shot in Fort Knox, Ky., on Thursday.(Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

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New U.S. studies released Friday show COVID-19 vaccines remained highly effective against hospitalizations and death even as the extra-contagious delta variant swept the country.

One study tracked over 600,000 COVID-19 cases in 13 states from April through mid-July. As delta surged in early summer, those who were unvaccinated were 4.5 times more likely than the fully vaccinated to get infected, over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Vaccination works," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told a White House briefing Friday.

"The bottom line is this: We have the scientific tools we need to turn the corner on this pandemic."

Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attends a Senate hearing in Washington on July 20.(Stefani Reynolds/Reuters)

So-called "breakthrough" cases in the fully vaccinated accounted for 14 per cent of hospitalizations and 16 per cent of deaths in June and July, about twice the percentage as earlier in the year.

An increase in those percentages isn't surprising: health experts have warned that as more Americans get vaccinated, they naturally will account for a greater fraction of the cases.

Walensky said Friday that well over 90 per cent of people in U.S. hospitals with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

The CDC released two other studies Friday that signaled hints of waning protection for older adults. One examined COVID-19 hospitalizations in nine states over the summer and found protection for those 75 and older was 76 per cent compared to 89 per cent for all other adults.

And in five Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, protection against COVID-19 hospitalizations was 95 per cent among 18- to 64-year-olds compared to 80 per cent among those 65 and older.

It isn't clear if the changes seen over time are because immunity is waning in people first vaccinated many months ago, that the vaccine isn't quite as strong against delta — or that much of the country abandoned masks and other precautions just as delta started spreading.

But U.S. health authorities will consider this latest real-world data as they decide whether at least some Americans need a booster, and how soon after their last dose. Next week, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will publicly debate Pfizer's application to offer a third shot.


What's happening across Canada

A COVID-19 testing site is seen in Regina on Thursday.(Matthew Howard/CBC)

  • More than 80 per cent of Manitoba's 105 new cases are among unvaccinated.
  • N.B. sees 24 new cases as Ottawa stops vaccine shipment to province.
  • N.S. logs 11 new cases, 10 in the province's central zone.

What's happening around the world

As of Friday, more than 223.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 case tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at 4.6 million.

In Africa, South Africa has started vaccinating children and adolescents as part of the global Phase 3 clinical trials of China's Sinovac Biotech shot for children aged six months to 17 years. The global study will enroll 2,000 participants in South Africa and 12,000 others in Kenya, the Philippines, Chile and Malaysia.

A minor is administered a COVID-19 vaccine shot in Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday.(Themba Hadebe/The Associated Press)

In Europe, Denmark's high vaccination rate has allowed the Scandinavian country to become one of the first European Union nations to lift all domestic restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to normality has been gradual, but as of Friday, a digital pass showing proof of vaccination is no longer required when entering nightclubs, making it the last virus safeguard to fall. More than 80 per cent of people above the age of 12 have had the two shots required.

In Asia, Sri Lanka is extending a lockdown for another week as it struggles against a coronavirus surge. The lockdown was first imposed on Aug. 20. Doctors and trade unions have warned that hospitals and morgues have reached their maximum capacities during the ongoing surge caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

In the Americas, an analysis by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) — which included countries in South America's "Southern Cone," as well as Mexico — showed women overall taking the biggest employment hit in Latin America when COVID-19 struck last year. According to the UNDP, women more often work in sectors most impacted by the pandemic, including tourism, commerce and education. Entrenched gender imbalances also has meant women have faced the lion's share of unpaid domestic work and care-giving, sharpened by lengthy school closures in the region.

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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