• Sat. Apr 20th, 2024
A laboratory technician works at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Louisville, Ky., on Jan. 10, 2022. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

A recent investigation showed that in 25 states, people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 are more likely to be a case, hospitalization, or death than those who haven’t received the vaccine.

Recently obtained data from Kentucky showed that, in June, 67 percent of the deaths were among those who had been vaccinated.

In Wisconsin, last month the majority of COVID-19 cases were from people who had been vaccinated. In addition, those vaccinated made up 64 percent of hospitalizations and 66 percent of deaths related to COVID-19.

This year’s numbers are much different from last year.

After the United States’ mass vaccination campaign picked up steam, every state began reporting that unvaccinated people made up the great preponderance of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The numbers have been increasing since the Delta virus variant was dominant. They have increased even more since the Omicron variant displaced Delta, according to newly collated numbers.

The data was gathered from various state health department websites and databases. Some of this information was requested through records and has never been released to the public before.

The statistics emphasize how vaccines have increasingly performed worse as newer virus variants emerged, according to experts.

They are “clear evidence that the vaccines are not working to prevent disease and death,” Dr. Robert Malone, who helped invent the messenger RNA utilized in the two most widely-administered vaccines.

As recommended by the CDC, some states provide age-adjusted numbers.

Data Reporting
Most states report at least one metric (cases, hospitalizations, deaths) by vaccination status. Some group the partially vaccinated with the unvaccinated when breaking down metrics.

As vaccines have proven increasingly unable to prevent COVID-19 infection in the Omicron era, a number of states have begun following the CDC’s lead in separating those who have received booster shots from the fully vaccinated population.

Key terms as generally defined:

  • Unvaccinated: people who have gotten zero shots.
  • Partially vaccinated: people who have received one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines and people who have not seen 14 days elapse since their final dose of a primary series.
  • Fully vaccinated: people who have completed a primary series of a vaccine.
  • Boosted: people who have received at least one extra shot on top of the primary series.

For the purposes of this article, “fully vaccinated” will refer to anyone who has received a primary series. This includes people who have had a booster shot. Meanwhile, “not fully vaccinated” refers to anybody who has not received the primary series yet. Lastly, “vaccinated” means anyone who has gotten at least one dose of any vaccine.

Exceeded Expectations

In 14 states, the percentage of one or more breakthrough metrics—post-vaccination cases, hospitalizations, and/or deaths—in recent months was higher than the population percentages of those vaccinated or fully vaccinated.

In majority of cases, there was only a single metric. Metrics are listed if they exceed the percentage of vaccinated adults by state; percentages were unavailable for some states. The data preferred is from June, followed by July.

  1. Alaska* (March): 3,995 breakthrough cases (64.5 percent of cases)
  2. Vaccinated at the time: 59.1 percent of 5 and up
  3. Idaho+ (June 5–July 2): 89 breakthrough hospitalizations (53 percent)
  4. Fully vaccinated at the time: 52 percent
  5. Kentucky* (June): 55 breakthrough deaths (67 percent)
  6. Vaccinated at the time: 66 percent
  7. Louisiana– (Aug. 7): 61 percent breakthrough deaths
  8. Vaccinated at the time: 52 percent full, 6 percent partial
  9. Minnesota+ (June 5–July 3): 29,660 breakthrough cases (71 percent); 107 breakthrough deaths (80 percent)
  10. Fully vaccinated at the time: 66 percent
  11. Mississippi* (April 1–Aug. 1): 54 percent of breakthrough deaths
  12. Vaccinated at the time: 51.7 percent
  13. Oklahoma* (June 5–July 5): 277 breakthrough hospitalizations (64 percent)
  14. Vaccinated at the time, 5 and older: 51 percent
  15. Rhode Island+ (June): 22 breakthrough deaths (76 percent)
  16. Fully vaccinated at the time: 75.6 percent
  17. South Dakota* (June): 141 breakthrough hospitalizations (74 percent); 8 breakthrough deaths (66.6 percent)
  18. Vaccinated at the time: 58 percent
  19. Utah+ (June 5–June 26): 17,856 breakthrough cases (67 percent); 623 hospitalizations (67 percent)
  20. Fully vaccinated as of Aug. 8: 62 percent
  21. Vermont+ (June): 32 breakthrough hospitalizations (84 percent); 10 breakthrough deaths (91 percent)
  22. Fully vaccinated at the time: 78.6 percent
  23. West Virginia+ (July 31): 175 breakthrough hospitalizations (55 percent)
  24. Fully vaccinated at the time: 53.5 percent
  25. Wisconsin+** (June): 31,702 breakthrough cases (65 percent); 634 breakthrough hospitalizations (64 percent); 69 breakthrough deaths (66 percent)
  26. Fully vaccinated at the time: 61.5 percent
  27. Wyoming+ (June): 3,672 breakthrough cases (62 percent); 9 breakthrough deaths (52 percent)
  28. Fully vaccinated as of Aug. 15 (46.8 percent)

+fully vaccinated
**excludes partially vaccinated

Adjusted Data

Some states manipulate the data before releasing it in order to even out any disparities that come from one population being distinct from another. The most widespread adjustment is usually for age.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, age adjustment is used in order to compare different populations accurately. This technique is especially important when trying to understand how a disease affects people of different ages, as is the case with COVID-19. Although anyone can contract the virus, older populations are more likely to experience severe illness and death from it.

The raw numbers look bad for the vaccinated. Wisconsin’s raw numbers were obtained through a records request.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the state’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said that clinical trials and vaccine efficacy studies are what help experts determine a vaccines effectiveness.

Dr. Leisha Nolen, Utah’s state epidemiologist, noted that studies can help manage biases, such as the increased likelihood of vaccinated people getting tested at sites which report data to the state versus those done at home and not counted.

According to Nolen, the studies display that “the vaccines aren’t as effective at stopping us from getting infected, but they still manage to keep people out of the hospital.”

Nolen referenced a study from the CDC, which was published in their journal on July 22 (pdf).

The data, which was collected from a CDC-funded network of hospitals across 10 states between December 2021 and June 2022, showed that two doses of a vaccine provided 57 to 68 percent protection against hospitalization through 149 days after vaccination. However, the protection dropped to as low as 24 percent 150 or more days after vaccination.

The third dose increased protection against BA.1, one of the subvariants, by 92 percent, and protection against BA.2, another subvariant dropped to 69 percent after 120 days or more. However, that same level of Protection plummeted to only 85 percent and 52 percent for each respective variant after such a long duration.

According to current data, the BA.5 strain is dominating in the United States. However, emerging evidence suggests that vaccines may not provide as much protection from BA.4 and BA.5 strains as they did against earlier strains.

Majority Vaccinated

In 11 other states, the vaccinated made up a majority of at least one metric. However, the percentage of vaccinated people did not exceed the percentage of vaccinated.

All data are from 2022. Percentages reported near or above 50 percent. Preference was for data in June, followed by data in July. Metrics with unvaccinated comprising a majority are not listed.

  1. Arizona+** (May): 62 percent breakthrough cases; 56.4 percent breakthrough hospitalizations
  2. Fully vaccinated as of June 1: 62 percent
  3. Connecticut+ (July 14–July 20): 2,116 breakthrough cases (56 percent); (July 25) 63 percent breakthrough hospitalizations
  4. Fully vaccinated at the time: 73 percent
  5. Georgia+ (June 4–July 1): 57,489 breakthrough cases (51 percent); 142 breakthrough deaths (54 percent)
  6. Fully vaccinated at the time: 56 percent
  7. Illinois+ (June 1–June 29): 205 breakthrough hospitalizations (49 percent); 195 breakthrough deaths (62 percent)
  8. Fully vaccinated at the time as of Aug. 15: 65 percent
  9. Maryland+ (June): 67.5 percent breakthrough cases, 70.6 percent breakthrough hospitalizations
  10. Fully vaccinated as of May 31: 76 percent
  11. Massachusetts+ (Aug. 2): 334 breakthrough hospitalized patients (60 percent); (June 25–July 1) 48 breakthrough deaths (77 percent)
  12. Fully vaccinated as of July 18: 79 percent
  13. Montana+ (May 14–July 8): 277 breakthrough hospitalizations (52 percent); 10 breakthrough deaths (48 percent)
  14. Fully vaccinated at the time: 53 percent
  15. New Mexico+** (July 4–Aug. 1): 15,520 breakthrough cases (62 percent); 398 breakthrough hospitalizations (55 percent); 45 breakthrough deaths (67 percent)
  16. Fully vaccinated as of Aug. 9: 69 percent
  17. Oregon+ (June): 27,092 breakthrough cases (59 percent); 83 breakthrough deaths (51 percent)
  18. Fully vaccinated as of Aug. 16: 70 percent
  19. Pennsylvania+ (April): 25,077 breakthrough cases (61 percent)
  20. Fully vaccinated at the time: 65 percent
  21. Tennessee- (July 1–July 8): 73 breakthrough hospitalizations (52 percent)
  22. Vaccinated at the time: 52 percent fully, 5.3 percent partially

+fully vaccinated
**excludes partially vaccinated

Other Studies

Vaccine protection against the Delta variant started waning in 2021 and has since then weakened even more rapidly with the emergence of Omicron in December 2021.

Omicron and its subvariants, more difficult for the immune system to detect, are better at evading the protection from vaccines and prior infection. Research indicates that the new vaccines bestow lower levels of initial protection, and that this protection drops faster than before with previous vaccines. Known as natural immunity, shielding from previous infection has held up better against Omicron according to studies, and was superior against Delta.

Research on booster effectiveness has shown that while they provide initial protection, this quickly declines. Other research has indicated that vaccinated people are more likely than unvaccinated people to get infected at a certain point, which could be related to immune imprinting.

The current vaccine formulation is not “well-matched” to the now dominant variant of Omicron, so U.S. regulators have already cleared first and second boosters—as have many other countries—and are authorizing updated vaccines that target Omicron.

“It’s really not possible to predict what this virus is going to do, and I think it makes sense to be prepared with these boosters, which contain components of a BA.4 and BA.5 as well as the so-called archival Wuhan strain,” Dr. Cody Meissner, one of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s external vaccine advisers said.

Some experts, like Meissner say that most individuals should get vaccinated against COVID-19. Others note that healthy adults are at little risk from the virus and its new variants, and argue that recent data suggests there is little benefit to vaccinating this group of people.

The data comes from different countries, not just the United Kingdom.

“What we’re looking at now is a sign of progress of a number of factors, primarily [that] the vaccinated can still catch and spread the COVID-19 virus,” Dr. Steven Hatfill, a virologist said.

“The cost-benefit ratio now especially for the younger age groups has disappeared,” he added later.

Remaining States

The eight remaining states reported that more of the COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths were unvaccinated individuals.

All data are from 2022. Rates are listed when raw numbers were not available. When rates are listed, they are age-adjusted. June is preferred, followed by July.

  1. California** (June): 215,900 unvaccinated cases (51.7 percent); 5,057 unvaccinated hospitalizations (52 percent); 413 unvaccinated deaths (59 percent)
  2. Unvaccinated at the time: 20 percent
  3. Colorado**+ (June 26–July 3): 353.2 unvaccinated cases, 145.5 fully vaccinated, 244.3 boosted; 13 unvaccinated hospitalizations, 5.6 fully vaccinated, 4.9 boosted; (May 25–June 1): 54.7 unvaccinated deaths, 35.2 vaccinated, 18.1 boosted
  4. Unvaccinated at the time: 20.5 percent
  5. Indiana* (Jan. 1–late July): 264,779 unvaccinated cases (50.7 percent); 90 percent unvaccinated hospitalizations, 35 percent unvaccinated deaths
  6. Not fully vaccinated as of July 24: 45 percent
  7. Maine*+ (July 16–July 23): 333 not fully vaccinated cases, 68.5 fully vaccinated; 17 not fully vaccinated hospitalizations, 1.8 fully vaccinated; 0.5 not fully vaccinated deaths, 0 vaccinated
  8. Not fully vaccinated at the time: 25.2 percent
  9. Nebraska* (June 26–July 23): 11,048 not fully vaccinated cases (59 percent); 3,412 not fully vaccinated hospitalizations (97 percent); deaths unclear
  10. Not fully vaccinated at the time: 35 percent
  11. New Jersey*+ (as of July 16): 565 not fully vaccinated cases, 117 fully vaccinated, 199 boosted; 16 not fully vaccinated hospitalizations, 3 fully vaccinated, 5.5 boosted; 0.35 not fully vaccinated deaths, 0.06 fully vaccinated, 0.1 boosted
  12. Not fully vaccinated as of Aug. 17: 33 percent
  13. North Carolina* (July 31–Aug. 6): cases not available; 50.6 percent not fully vaccinated hospitalizations; death rate per 100,000 (June 30–July 30): 2.2 not fully vaccinated, 0.4 fully vaccinated, 0.2 boosted
  14. Not fully vaccinated as of Aug. 18: 37 percent
  15. Texas*+ (June 18–June 25): 334.4 unvaccinated cases, 163.9 fully vaccinated; hospitalizations not available; 0.5 unvaccinated deaths, 0.2 fully vaccinated
  16. Not fully vaccinated as of Aug. 10: 38 percent

*counts partially vaccinated with unvaccinated
+rates per 100,000
**excludes partially vaccinated

17 other states didn’t have complete data. In order to be included, states needed to report numbers for one metric at the very least, and it had to be split up by vaccination status and time. People who would only supply information since the pandemic started were not allowed. Some hadn’t even finished filling out records requests when this went to print.

CDC Reporting

Earlier in the pandemic, when a vast majority of Americans were unvaccinated, U.S. officials and news outlets cited state-level data as proof that vaccines worked effectively.

The CDC continues to presents data on its website regarding COVID-19 cases and deaths by vaccination status. This data, which is based on statistics from 31 health departments, has been offered repeatedly by the agency as evidence of vaccine effectiveness.

The data is presented in the form of incidence rates. The raw numbers have not yet been successfully obtained. According to the rates, those who were not vaccinated were 2.1 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 in June and five times more likely to die from it than those who were fully vaccinated.

The CDC presents data on COVID-19 hospitalizations separately, based on a hospital network in 14 states that it funds. However, the agency has stopped listing fully vaccinated people and only lists unvaccinated people and those who have received booster shots.

Raw numbers are not to be reported by vaccination status according to the CDC. The reason being, “the percentage of vaccinated people among COVID-19 cases rises with either increasing vaccination coverage or decreasing vaccine effectiveness.” What officials are supposed to report instead is data such as incidence rates or rate ratios. This adjusts for any disparities between unvaccinated and vaccinated populations, including age differences. These rates are said to be “more stable and directly related to vaccine effectiveness.”

Some states stopped reporting important vaccine data after news organizations started asking questions, but we still has access to this information. We reviewed percentages and numbers from all the states that do report them, obtained monthly or weekly breakdowns from some, and even got our hands on unadjusted data that’s never been reported before.

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