For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, a majority of Americans dying from the coronavirus were at least partially vaccinated, according to a new analysis of federal and state data.
The waning efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and increasingly contagious strains of the virus being spread to elderly and immunocompromised people have resulted in more deaths among those who have taken at least one vaccine dose, a Washington Post analysis published Wednesday finds.
“Fifty-eight percent of coronavirus deaths in August were people who were vaccinated or boosted,” the Post reported.
The paper described a “troubling trend” as the share of deaths of people who were vaccinated has been “steadily rising” over the past year.
“In September 2021, vaccinated people made up just 23 percent of coronavirus fatalities. In January and February this year, it was up to 42 percent,” the Washington Post’s Fenit Nirappil and Dan Keating wrote.
“We can no longer say this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said Kaiser Family Foundation vice president Cynthia Cox, who conducted the analysis on behalf of the Post.
Top health officials have repeatedly urged Americans to complete their primary vaccine series and get boosted to maximize vaccine protection against COVID-19.
At a press briefing Tuesday, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha unveiled the Biden administration’s new “six-week sprint” campaign to get Americans vaccinated this holiday season.
“Bottom line is that we’re doing everything we can in the next six weeks to help families get their updated COVID shots by the end of the year, because it’s the best protection for this winter,” Jha said, adding that the latest iteration of the COVID-19 vaccine is a “once a year shot,” similar to the flu shot.
Outgoing White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci also spoke at Tuesday’s press briefing, where he delivered his “final message” before stepping down at the end of the year.
Fauci emphasized the safety and efficacy of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in preventing severe illness and deaths and encouraged Americans to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. He noted that coronavirus vaccine effectiveness wanes over time and said the disease shouldn’t be compared to other vaccine-treatable illnesses like measles because of new emerging variants every few months.
“My message, and my final message, maybe the final message I give you from this podium, is that please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID 19 shot as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself, your family and your community,” Fauci said. “I urge you to visit vaccine.gov to find a location where you can easily get an updated vaccine, and please do it as soon as possible.”
Multiple medical experts, including Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, have acknowledged that the coronavirus vaccines do not necessarily protect people against infection and transmission.
Despite this, several people, including Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Lapado, were criticized for suggesting that COVID vaccines were not as effective as originally claimed.
In October, a New York state Supreme Court ordered all employees who were fired because of New York City’s vaccine mandate be reinstated with back pay, finding that “being vaccinated does not prevent an individual from contracting or transmitting COVID-19.”