Unvaccinated Minnesotans 30x more likely to die from COVID

Published 6:55 am Thursday, October 21, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Unvaccinated Minnesotans are 15 times more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19 and 30 times more likely to die from the disease than vaccinated residents, Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Wednesday.

The commissioner gave those figures as the Minnesota Department of Health added new data to its weekly report on vaccine breakthrough cases, which normally comes out on Mondays. The department added a new graph and chart Wednesday to clarify its data on breakthrough cases.

“This really does just show, again, the key point that the current wave of COVID infections is concentrated heavily among people who are not fully vaccinated,” Malcolm said during a briefing for reporters. “And it shows that the infection risk is there for all age groups, not just older Minnesotans.”

The graph shows weekly age-adjusted rates for cases, hospitalizations and deaths according to the patients’ vaccination status, Malcolm said. The chart shows rates by age group for cases, hospitalizations and deaths for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

Kathy Como-Sabetti, manager of the department’s COVID-19 epidemiology section, said there have been delays in reporting new data because it takes time to match case and death data with individual vaccination records. So it’s not possible to tell from the department’s daily updates whether newly reported cases and deaths involve vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

Minnesota had recorded 45,827 breakthrough cases as of Tuesday, representing 1.44% of the state’s fully vaccinated population of 3.18 million people. They included 2,178 hospitalizations and 263 deaths.

Malcolm said it’s normal with any vaccine for a certain percentage of vaccinated people to catch the disease anyway, but that the data show that the COVID-19 vaccines are still “incredibly effective.”

“We do know that vaccine makes illness less severe in people who get vaccinated but still get sick,” she said. “Fully vaccinated people are much less likely to be hospitalized or die … than people with similar risk factors who are not vaccinated.”

The White House said Wednesday that children ages 5 to 11 will soon be able to get a COVID-19 shot at their pediatricians’ office, local pharmacies and potentially even their schools, as it detailed plans for the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for elementary schoolers in the next few weeks.

Minnesota has been preparing for that for some time, Malcolm said, and already has an extensive pediatric vaccine provider network in place. Minnesota pharmacies will be getting direct allocations from the federal government in addition to what it sends to the health department, she said. The department is considering how to set up community vaccination sites, including at schools.

“We will absolutely be ready to go,” Malcolm said, just as soon as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorizes the shots, which she expects will happen around Nov. 4.

“Children do get sick with COVID” and some do become severely ill with it, State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said. But she said a CDC report on vaccine effectiveness in adolescents published Tuesday found that, for young people ages 12-18, the Pfizer vaccine was 93% effective in preventing hospitalizations. “COVID is not something we want our kids to have.”