The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services yesterday released new data in the weekly respiratory surveillance report showing that unvaccinated people were 15.4 times, or 1,540 percent, more likely to die from COVID-19 during the four-week period ending Aug. 21, 2021. This comes as the state hit a pandemic high on Aug. 26 with 912 adults in the ICU with COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators also reached a record high at 574.
This week’s respiratory surveillance report is the first to provide age-adjusted death rate data for COVID-19. Adjusting for age is a way to make fairer comparisons between vaccinated and unvaccinated people because the vaccinated population is older than the unvaccinated population and older people are more likely to die from COVID-19. Data is preliminary and is subject to change as additional cases and deaths are reported.
During the week ending Aug. 21, 2021, unvaccinated people were also 4.4 times, or 440 percent, more likely to catch COVID-19 than vaccinated people. The difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated teens was even greater during the week ending Aug. 21, 2021, with unvaccinated people aged 12 to 17 being 6.3 times, or 630 percent, more likely to get COVID-19 than vaccinated people in the same age group.
There is urgency to get vaccinated now. North Carolina has been experiencing the fastest acceleration in cases and hospitalizations since the pandemic started. The COVID-19 vaccines authorized and approved in the United States continue to be remarkably effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant.
"The vast majority of people dying with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. If you are not vaccinated please don’t wait until it is too late," said Mandy K. Cohen, M.D., Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services. "The authorized and approved vaccines have been through rigorous clinical trials and met scientific standards. Millions of North Carolinians have been safely vaccinated."
There were 187 deaths among unvaccinated persons younger than 65, compared with eight deaths among vaccinated persons younger than 65 during the four-week time period. There were 215 deaths among unvaccinated persons older than 65, compared with 67 deaths among vaccinated persons older than 65. [The previous version of this release stated the number of deaths over a one-week period, which showed there were 29 deaths among unvaccinated persons younger than 65, compared with one death among vaccinated persons younger than 65, and 30 deaths among unvaccinated persons older than 65, compared with seven deaths among vaccinated persons older than 65. This has been corrected to show the number of deaths in the full four-week period used for death rate comparisons, based on case data reported through Aug. 22.]
Vaccines are widely available in North Carolina. Through Aug. 31, anyone 18 and older who gets their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a participating location will receive a $100 Summer Card* in the form of a Prepaid Mastercard® while supplies last. To get a free vaccine near you, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call 888-675-4567. You can also text your zip code to 438829 to find vaccine locations near you.
Anyone who has symptoms of or has been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible. To find a testing site in your community, go to www.ncdhhs.gov/GetTested. People who are not experiencing serious symptoms should not go to the emergency department for routine COVID-19 testing. People should seek medical attention immediately for serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.
While vaccines are the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death, monoclonal antibody therapy can reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and decrease the likelihood of hospitalization, especially in high-risk patients. If you test positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy must be administered within 10 days of your first COVID-19 symptoms, so it is crucial to get tested early.
In addition to getting vaccinated, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our communities, NCDHHS recommends everyone wear a mask in indoor public spaces if you live in area of high or substantial levels of transmission as defined by the CDC until more people are vaccinated and viral transmission decreases. In North Carolina, that is now all 100 counties.