Vermont’s governor continues to promote vaccination even for those who have received two shots, as state health department data released Friday reveals that hospitalizations and deaths are increasing among the fully vaccinated.
“We know that vaccination is the way we’ll beat this pandemic and ensuring as many Vermonters as possible are fully protected is essential,” Republican Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement Friday. “Vermonters have led the way in our vaccination efforts, and I’m confident they will continue to in this next phase.”
Yet according to the Vermont Department of Health’s biweekly COVID-19 Data Summary, released Friday, the number of hospitalizations and deaths for fully vaccinated Vermonters has increased in high percentages over the past two weeks.
The department records there have been 76 hospitalizations among fully vaccinated Vermonters since January, up from 51 cited in the report just two weeks ago — a 49 percent increase. The number of vaccinated Vermonters who have died from COVID-related illness has climbed to 33, up from 18 listed in the prior report — an 83 percent increase. Coronavirus cases for the fully vaccinated climbed to 2,819, up from 1,906 over the same two-week reporting period — a 47 percent jump.
The rise of “breakthrough cases” in Vermont and across the nation undermines claims about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Scott and health department officials have responded to such cases by saying numbers are skewed due to the high percentage of Vermonters who are vaccinated relative to those who are not.
In addition, Scott claims COVID vaccines “were designed – first and foremost – to limit severe illness.”
“While we hoped they would nearly eliminate cases, that’s not really how vaccines work. The goal is to limit the number of people who are hospitalized or lose their life once vaccinated. And they are doing just that,” Scott said at his Sept. 7 press conference.
However, a VTDigger analysis of the health department’s COVID-19 Data Summary, even after accounting for the larger number of vaccinated people in Vermont, concluded that COVID-related deaths are occurring at similar rates.
“Adjusting for the state’s large fully vaccinated population, unvaccinated Vermonters are still dying from Covid at a slightly higher rate than vaccinated Vermonters, by a factor of about 1.2,” VTDigger reported.
Also included in Friday’s health department data summary is a breakdown of what percentage of Vermonters are at risk of death by age group. The following graph reveals that no age bracket — even 80-plus — has a high percentage chance of dying from the virus compared to the general population.
The rate of COVID death for Vermonters age 80 and up, the highest age risk category, is 58.8 per 10,000, which equates to about 1 death out of every 170 residents.
Vermonters in the 60-69 age bracket have about 4 deaths for every 10,000 people in Vermont, or 1 death in 2,500 residents of the state.
Vermonters age 40 have less than 1 death per 10,000 people in the state.
By comparison, in 2019 about 7.5 out of every 100,000 Vermonters died from highway accidents, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That is equivalent to 0.75 for every 10,000 people.
Another graph in the data summary, found on page 8, shows the distribution of people getting tested for COVID-19 in Vermont. Only 4 percent of Vermont COVID-19 tests are being given to citizens ages 80 and up. The the 20-29 age bracket has the highest percentage of tests, at 16 percent.
Overall cases per week for the fully vaccinated have risen sharply since July, jumping from around the 13-23 mark to 517 in the most recent week covered by the report.
Vermont continues to rely heavily on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for its primary policy guidance.
St. Johnsbury clinical nutritionist Alison Despathy recently questioned if the CDC has a conflict of interest in pushing for nationwide vaccination while at the same time having patents on those products.
“Is it ethical, and should it be legal, for federal regulating agencies to hold patents on the products that they are regulating, such as the CDC holding patents on vaccines?” she wrote.