Vaccinated, seniors make up growing share of COVID-19 deaths: Washington Post

As the share of deaths among older Americans and those with immunocompromising conditions who have been vaccinated grows, unvaccinated people no longer account for the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 deaths, The Washington Post reported April 29. 

During the delta wave's peak in September, the vaccinated accounted for 23 percent of COVID-19 deaths, according to CDC data analyzed by the Post. That rose to 42 percent in January and February, when the omicron wave peaked.  

"It's still absolutely more dangerous to be unvaccinated than vaccinated," said Andrew Noymer, PhD, public health professor at the University of California Irvine who studies COVID-19 mortality. "A pandemic of — and by — the unvaccinated is not correct. People still need to take care in terms of prevention and action if they become symptomatic," he told the Post

The rise in deaths among people aged 75 and older are a key factor behind the rise in deaths among the vaccinated. The Post's analysis found nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 deaths during the omicron surge were among those who were at least 75, compared to about a third during the delta wave. While vaccination rates are high among seniors, this population is still most vulnerable to severe illness and waning protection.

Further analysis of state data showed the majority of vaccinated deaths were among those who did not get a booster dose. For example, in California and Mississippi, 75 percent of vaccinated senior citizens who died in January and February were not boosted. 

The rising number of deaths among older Americans and immunocompromised people who've been vaccinated serve as a reminder that the shots are not 100 percent effective, and reinforce the role boosters and extra precautions play in protecting high-risk populations. 

"Vaccines are one of the most important and longest-lasting tools we have to protect ourselves," said Erica Pan, MD, California state epidemiologist, citing state estimates indicating the vaccines are 85 percent effective at preventing death. "Unfortunately, that does leave another 15 [percent]." 

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