Throughout the pandemic, the unvaccinated have counted for most of the deaths. However, recent data indicates that is changing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released nationwide statistics showing vaccinated individuals made up 42% of the deaths in January and February during the omicron variant surge. In September, it was only 23% during the Delta wave. It’s vital to note that the information is based on the date of infection and is limited to cases in which vaccination status was known.
While the unvaccinated remain at the highest risk, a few factors contribute to the increase in deaths among the vaccinated. The first is vaccine protection wanes over time, and if a person hasn’t received a booster (or two), they’re more susceptible. A second consideration is that the virus is mutating and becoming increasingly contagious. The elderly and immunocompromised, those at the highest risk of succumbing to Covid-19 even if they’re vaccinated, are having a tougher time avoiding it.
The numbers support the concept—close to two-thirds of the deaths during the omicron surge were over 75 versus a third during the delta wave. The bulk of the vaccinated deaths was from people who didn’t receive a booster shot. Experts aren’t surprised that vaccinated seniors make up a more significant share of the dead. As the number of people infected increases, so will the number of people killed, including a larger number who are vaccinated but are more vulnerable.
The rising number of vaccinated people dying shouldn’t trigger panic in those who got shots. Instead, experts say they should serve as a reminder that vaccines aren’t foolproof. Also, those in high-risk groups should think about getting boosted and taking extra safety measures during surges. The medically vulnerable should remain vigilant for signs of infection because as therapeutics become more available, early detection and treatment will be the key.