Vaccines are preventing COVID-19 among most who receive them in Pa.

Written by on September 15, 2021

Vaccines are preventing COVID-19 among most who receive them in Pa.

Nine months of data suggest only a 6% chance existed that a vaccinated person would fall ill with COVID-19

By Sam Dunklau / WITF

September 15, 2021

A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pa., Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

New data released by the state Health Department shows COVID-19 vaccines have managed to protect against illness, hospitalization and death in the vast majority of Pennsylvanians.

The agency compiled nine months worth of data on more than 639,000 cases from hospitals and healthcare facilities covering about 80 percent of all hospital beds in the state.

It suggests during that time, only a 6 percent chance existed that a person who was vaccinated fell ill with COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Only 5 percent of those who have been hospitalized and 3 percent who have died from the coronavirus in that same time were vaccinated.

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam says the findings confirm what medical experts already know and what other studies have shown.

“Even as the more transmissible delta variant becomes more widespread, the COVID vaccines are safe, are effective, and help prevent serious illness and death,” she said at a press conference Tuesday.

Lancaster General Hospital’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael Ripchinski said there isn’t enough research yet to explain why vaccines don’t work in a sliver of people. But vaccinated people who get sick usually fall into a few categories, he explained:

“Many of them are immunocompromised, or they have mild symptoms and they’re actually admitted for reasons to the hospital [sic] other than COVID-19,”

Ripchinski acknowledged the data slightly lags behind what his hospital system is currently experiencing: right now, about 15 to 20 percent of people who are hospitalized with the virus are vaccinated. But even though more are winding up there, the doctor said it is still unvaccinated people who require the most intensive care. That has stressed hospital employees to the breaking point in Pennsylvania and in other states.

“Unvaccinated people tend to be in the ICU, they require additional support for their breathing, [and] they have longer lengths of stay in the hospital,” Ripchinski said.

The data comes as parent groups and some Republican lawmakers are suing the state for imposing a mask mandate in school and childcare settings. A state House committee voted to refer the decision to another panel for review on Thursday, arguing the Health Secretary doesn’t have the authority to issue an emergency mandate on her own.

On average, more than 2,000 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 each day in the last week in Pennsylvania. Though Beam said roughly seven million people in the state are fully vaccinated, she and other health experts say more of its several million unvaccinated people need to get a shot for the number to be lower.

“Every person who chooses to get vaccinated puts us one step closer to moving past the pandemic,” Beam said.

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