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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Miller, MD

Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated Cases: the Facts

I was going to address the monoclonal antibody treatment Regeneron this week, which is an exciting new preventative that we are offering to people who qualify based on symptoms and risk factors. However, I feel that will have to wait until next week. There has been a recent rise in conspiracy theories locally that I feel needs to be addressed head on. Namely, that we in public health and hospital health care are somehow hiding evidence, the word “cover up” has been used, about the “truth” regarding admission rates of vaccinated persons to our hospitals. There is no such cover up... here are the facts as of today:

1. We are now a little over 6 weeks into the recent surge of cases in Mendocino County which began around July 20th, 2021, and really took off about 2 weeks ago. As of today, our county public health officer, Dr. Andy Coren, confirms that of the 1,060 new cases since July 20th, 2021, the start of the current surge, 945 (89%) were in unvaccinated persons and 115 (11%) were vaccinated. This is very consistent with what we are seeing reported in the medical literature for COVID vaccination effectiveness against the Delta variant, namely about 88% effective with 12% still getting infected. Since roughly 2/3 of the population in the county is now fully vaccinated, this is clear evidence that the vaccinations are effective in reducing infection... otherwise, the percentage of new cases would more closely match the vaccination rate and we would see 64% of new cases in vaccinated persons instead of only 11%.

2. Mendocino County has three hospitals, all three are part of the Adventist Health system which has been hugely beneficial in allowing us to coordinate resources to respond to this situation. Ukiah Valley Medical Center (AHUV) has 50 beds, Howard Memorial in Willits (AHHM) has 25 beds and Mendocino Coast in Ft. Bragg (AHMC) has 25. Since the current surge escalated about 2 weeks ago, we have been holding steady at our capacity with 100 patients in our three facilities along with a small back log of patients awaiting admission to the hospital in our emergency rooms.

3. COVID cases have been running consistently between 30-33 of those 100 patients. Please note that the Mendocino County stats on COVID admissions posted on the county website includes ONLY those COVID patients actually admitted into the hospital. It does NOT include patients who were seen in ERs and then sent home. So, when we say we have 33 patients admitted with COVID, we mean in a hospital bed. About 1/3 of those are in an ICU and about 1/4 are intubated.

4. Of the 30-33 COVID patients admitted at any one time, the number who are fully vaccinated has run consistently around 3 to 4 or about 10%. The range has been 8% to 12%. This compares with the state average in California where 9% of all COVID admissions to a hospital are in vaccinated persons while 91% are in unvaccinated persons. Once again, since the percentage of vaccinated persons in Mendocino County is roughly 64% (age 12 years and up) and statewide is 66%, this is incontrovertible evidence that the vaccines are working to reduce the risk of more serious illness and hospitalization.

5. To look at it another way, we have 49,600 persons vaccinated in Mendocino County. Yet since July 20th, 2021, there have been only 210 vaccinated persons test positive for COVID.

6. There have been 17 COVID related deaths in our county since July 20th, 2021. Three were in vaccinated persons, each of whom had advanced age (one was 99 years old) and/or serious co-morbidities. Meanwhile, 14 deaths were in unvaccinated people which included several under the age of 50 who had no comorbidities.

I understand that some folks may not believe in vaccination and may decide not to get vaccinated themselves. While I do not agree with the reasoning behind this, as I strongly believe that the vaccines are both safe and effective, I respect that personal decision. However, it is not helpful to any of us to have people spread false information or fuel false conspiracy theories that we in health care are all somehow in cahoots with... what.. big pharma? the Russians? the Chinese? a secret underground? Honestly, I just worked a very long and difficult night shift because of this pandemic. I desire nothing more than seeing this thing come to an end. There is no benefit to any of us, especially front-line workers like myself, to covering up the facts. If we have not been more forth coming with the numbers, and I think we have been transparent, then I apologize. It is because we are busy trying to put out the fires and perhaps haven't had the time to rebuttal every conspiracy theory that pops up on social media.

My ask to all of us is, continue to treat each other with respect and understand that this is a real challenge and that we will prevail, I am certain of that. How many lives are lost in the process, however, depends on whether we stick to the facts or get sidetracked in self-indulgent conspiracy theories that only serve to undermine the sincere efforts of public health officials and health care workers.

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