Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Young, unvaccinated people are being hospitalized with Covid-19 as delta variant spreads, officials warn


Young, unvaccinated people are showing up at hospitals — in some cases admitted to the intensive care unit and put on ventilators — with Covid-19 at concerning rates, health officials across the country have warned.

Vaccination rates among younger people are lower than in older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency’s data shows that slightly less than half of Americans in the age groups of 18 to 24 and 25 to 39 are fully vaccinated. The number is even lower for children between 12 and 18, who have been eligible to receive the vaccine for months.

These low vaccination rates have officials urging younger people to roll up their sleeves and get the shot.

“Please be safe and if you are 12 or older — please protect yourself,” read a tweet by Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s health officer.

Seven children in the state were hospitalized in the intensive care unit with the coronavirus, according to Dobbs. Two of those children are on ventilators, he tweeted on Tuesday.

In a Twitter post on Monday, Dobbs said that a “vast majority” of the hospitalizations and deaths are among people who were not vaccinated. According to NBC News’ data, 33.5 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

This comes as the delta variant spreads across the U.S.

Officials have warned that the delta variant is more contagious and potentially deadlier. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, previously said the variant is the “greatest threat” to eliminating the coronavirus.

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said the “worst is yet to come” with the delta variant. Gottlieb is also a board member for Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company that is offering a two-dose coronavirus vaccine.

“The delta variant is going to move its way through the country over the course of August and September, maybe into October. That’s what the modeling shows, that’s what we expected, that the peak of this epidemic would really be sometime around the end of September, back to school season,” he said Wednesday on CNBC. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better in terms of the spread of this infection right now.”

The new variant has President Joe Biden urging Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, especially young people who he said are more at risk.

“The data is clear: If you are unvaccinated, you’re at risk of getting seriously ill or dying or spreading it,” Biden said during a White House press conference in June.

“It is a variant that is more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier and particularly dangerous for young people,” he added.

As of July 7, just over six million children are fully vaccinated, according to a data analysis published by the CDC. That number represents 36 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds and 24 percent of children between 12 and 15.

NBC News previously reported that a rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations has particularly increased in states that lean Republican, where vaccination rates are well below the national average.

Dana Hawkinson, an Infectious Disease Physician at the University of Kansas Health System, said he has noticed hospitalizations rise among young, otherwise healthy people.

“We are seeing patients in their 20s and 30s who are otherwise healthy, who are coming because of worsening symptoms … today, in the hospital, in the ICU, who are needing to have ventilator and high oxygen support,” he said. “Again, because they’re unvaccinated. It is completely preventable if you get vaccinated.”

NBC News’ data shows that just over 42 percent of the population in Kansas is fully vaccinated against the virus. According to the Department of Health and Environment, the state averaged 371 new Covid-19 cases a day for the seven days ending Monday. That was the highest number in more than four months since the agency’s data showed an average of 4,040 new cases a day for seven days ending on Feb. 26.

The delta variant and the number of unvaccinated young people has also been a concern for health officials in St. Louis County, Missouri.

Two weeks ago, “there were 89 patients admitted to ICU beds for Covid-related conditions across the St. Louis metro area,” Faisal Khan, the director of the county’s public health department, said during an appearance on MSNBC. “Each of those individuals was unvaccinated, and they were from the relatively younger age group between 18 to 50.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we see more cases in children,” he added.

Some Americans have been hesitant to get the vaccine for a number of reasons, from suspicions over how quickly it was produced to concerns about it causing side effects or long-term health problems. The CDC, however, has issued data that shows the vaccines are safe and effective.

Khan said on MSNBC that although some people are uncertain about getting the jab, he has seen a large number who change their mind after seeing a family member or close friend get the shot and then continue “living life as close to normal as possible.”

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