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‘Vaccines work’: Data show vaccines are keeping older Washington residents out of hospitals

April 29, 2021 Updated Thu., April 29, 2021 at 9:41 p.m.

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

Older, unvaccinated Washington residents are being hospitalized at a rate 9.7 times higher than those who are fully vaccinated, Secretary of Health Umair Shah told reporters Wednesday.

“This really underscores the point of why vaccines work,” he said.

The state data supports what is being seen nationally in older adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study on adults 65 and older and found that those who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 were 94% less likely to be hospitalized.

The 14-state assessment studied adults who had received either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and even adults who were vaccinated with only one dose of either two-dose vaccine were 64% less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than people who were not vaccinated at all.

This was the first real-world clinical trial in the United States to show the mRNA vaccines prevent severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Currently, 75% of Washington state residents 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 68% of this age group is fully vaccinated.

Some parts of the state have more demand for vaccine than others. The Department of Health is beginning to allocate doses based on provider requests, not solely on pro rata county populations.

“We are going to let no dose go unused, so if providers in jurisdictions haven’t ordered all their doses, we are shifting those to other counties,” Michele Roberts, assistant secretary at the Department of Health, said Wednesday.

As COVID-19 cases increase in many parts of the state, the governor warned of the increase in variant cases identified in the state. Some variants are associated with quicker transmission, as well as the ability to subvert some treatments for the virus.

Gov. Jay Inslee called the rise of variants across the state “COVID 2.0,” which he said was “very disturbing.”

“This is not your grandmother’s COVID,” he told reporters. “It’s a new form, a mutant strain.”

Although the current fourth wave is not rising as quickly as previous waves, Inslee cautioned against confidence, because the numbers will continue to rise unless something changes. The new variants have the capability to “overwhelm our hospitals,” he said.

While hospitals are not rescheduling elective procedures, they may need to in the future, he said.

“If we ignore it, it will sweep right over top of us,” Inslee said.

The only way out of it, he said, is by getting vaccinated.

Some variant cases are also associated with breakthrough cases, which are rare instances when a person who is fully vaccinated against the virus still tests positive for COVID-19.

In Spokane County, breakthrough cases are associated with young people and connected to some of the new variants, according to Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez.

As of Tuesday, there are 23 breakthrough cases confirmed in Spokane County, and 17 more are probable or being investigated.

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 117 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and two additional deaths.

There have been 611 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents since the pandemic began.

There are 73 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane hospitals.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 40 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths on Thursday.

There are 30 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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