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DoH releases COVID surveillance report

A new surveillance report from the Washington State Department of Health highlights how powerful existing vaccines are at combating COVID-19, and keeping people alive and out of the hospital. 

The report was released on Sept. 15, and accompanied by a press conference with state health leaders. Some high-level statistics include unvaccinated people ages 12 to 34 in the state are 30 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to their fully vaccinated peers.

The vaccine is less effective at preventing infection altogether, with unvaccinated people of the same age range six times more likely to get the virus. At the same time, public health officials have stressed that avoiding hospitalization and serious complications is a main benefit of getting vaccinated.  

Only 9.7% of people who were hospitalized by the virus between February and the end of August were fully vaccinated, while 83.8% were unvaccinated. 

Here’s a breakdown of deaths by age group: 

Statewide, as of Sept. 13, 75.1% of people aged 12 and up had received at least one dose, and 68.1% were fully vaccinated. At the same time, hospitals across the state are full up with COVID-19 patients, said Steve Mitchell, medical director for Harborview Medical Center’s Emergency Department. 

During the press conference, Mitchell said his emergency department had a backlog of patients who were waiting for beds. 

“This is not just my hospital,” he said. “This is happening in every resource hospital throughout the state.” 

This means that hospitals have so many ICU patients that they’re converting other areas of the hospital into ICU facilities. When those fill up, and ambulances can’t drop patients off, those ambulances then become treatment spaces, and the ambulance crews can’t be dispatched on further calls. 

According to the Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, last week hospitals reached 89% ICU capacity, with COVID-19 patients taking up 34% of beds. Incomplete data suggests those numbers have increased since then. 

Booster vaccine shots have also been proposed, and the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is meeting on Friday to assess whether to allow a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine for those 16 and older. 

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