The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study on Jan. 7 which found that every one of the 189 vaccinated people who experienced a severe outcome after contracting COVID-19 had at least one risk factor, like being 65 or older.
Scientists affiliated with the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases studied approximately 1,228,664 persons aged 18 and over who completed primary vaccination from December 2020 to October 2021, receiving either Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, or an “unspecified mRNA vaccine.”
Among these, 2,246 contracted COVID-19, including 327 who were hospitalized, while 189 had a severe COVID-19 outcome. Thirty-six people had a COVID-19-related death, including nine persons discharged to hospice, the study found.
The study defined serious COVID-19 outcomes as hospitalization with a diagnosis of acute respiratory failure, the need for noninvasive ventilation, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, including requiring invasive mechanical ventilation, and death.
Among those who acquired COVID-19 after primary vaccination, 36 died, 24 survived and were admitted to an ICU, and 129 survived but were diagnosed with acute respiratory failure or required non-invasive ventilation but were not admitted to an ICU.
The study said that severe outcomes associated with getting the vaccine are rare, with 0.015 percent of those who were studied having severe outcomes and 0.0033 percent of the people studied dying.
Those who suffered serious outcomes had risk factors which included being aged 65 and older, being immunocompromised, or having underlying conditions involving pulmonary disease, liver disease, chronic kidney disease, neurologic disease, diabetes, or cardiac disease.
All those with severe outcomes had at least one of these risk factors, and 77.8 percent of those who died had four or more risk factors, the CDC said.
“Vaccinated persons who are older, immunosuppressed, or have other underlying conditions should receive targeted interventions including chronic disease management, precautions to reduce exposure, additional primary and booster vaccine doses, and effective pharmaceutical therapy to mitigate risk for severe outcomes,” the CDC said. “Increasing vaccination coverage is a critical public health priority.”
Among 3,395 persons who received booster or additional vaccine doses, 27 contracted COVID-19, of which three had severe outcomes but this did not include ICU admission or deaths.
The CDC also noted that population-wide data has demonstrated that COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are more frequent among Hispanic, black, and American Indian or Alaska Native people than among white persons.
This might be due to multiple factors, including higher levels of exposure to the virus, reduced access to care, and higher rates of uncontrolled underlying conditions among these populations, the CDC said. However, the agency has not found any association between race and ethnicity and severe COVID-19 outcomes after receiving the shot.
The study published Thursday was conducted before the discovery of the highly transmissible, although less severe, Omicron variant in South Africa in November.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that worldwide cases of COVID-19 have “increased sharply” in the past week but the overall number of deaths dropped.
Between Dec. 27, 2021, and Jan. 2, 2022, the number of cases increased by 71 percent compared to the previous week, the agency said in its weekly epidemiological update, although it did not reference the Omicron variant. Meanwhile, it said the number of deaths dropped by 10 percent worldwide.
The figures come as Omicron continues to spread across the globe. This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that Omicron makes up about 95.4 percent of all COVID-19 cases, supplanting the previously dominant Delta strain.
However, the drop in the number of deaths and the rise in cases suggests the Omicron variant presents milder symptoms than previous variants, including Delta.