Among the biggest outbreaks linked to the virus that causes COVID-19 has been in hokum, which has infected many people of all walks of life and of every political stripe.
That’s unfortunate, because clumps of pseudoscience about vaccines in that blizzard of general falsity have fatally misled some people.
Although attempting to glean facts from that flurry of nonsense has been daunting, there are a couple of simple facts, that are facts, and should be compelling to about half the adult population of Galveston County.
• Almost everybody dying with COVID-19 infection is unvaccinated.
• Almost everybody forced into a hospital and to undergo treatment to avoid dying is unvaccinated.
And using the word “almost” is hedging the facts almost more than practically necessary.
Only about 150 of the more than 18,000 U.S. COVID-19-related deaths in May were among fully vaccinated people, according to an Associated Press analysis of available government data.
That means only about 0.8 percent of the deaths were among vaccinated people, which means more than 99 percent of the dead were unvaccinated.
That should be close enough to “all” to get the attention of anybody who hasn’t been vaccinated.
Likewise, “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the AP analysis. That’s about 0.1 percent, which means 99.9 percent of people who had to be hospitalized were unvaccinated.
That’s about as close to an absolute “all” as it gets in statistics.
These simple facts are why the Galveston County Health District recently began reporting whether local people who died with COVID-19 had been vaccinated. The district made the change to make a specific point about the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and how they’re making deaths from the virus preventable, Galveston County Local Health Authority Dr. Philip Keiser said.
“We’re making it real to people,” Keiser said.
Noting the unvaccinated among the dead is only a first step in underscoring the importance of vaccinations, Keiser said.
The district also plans to report the vaccination differences in local hospitalizations and new cases, he said.
Keiser expected the numbers to make some trends clear — vaccinated people who test positive are hospitalized and die less frequently than unvaccinated people.
“The people who have died who have been vaccinated are extremely, extremely rare,” Keiser said.
As with the national numbers, the vast majority of people hospitalized by COVID-19 at the University of Texas Medical Branch in recent months have been unvaccinated, said Dr. Janak Patel, the director of infection control and health care epidemiology.
“There’s no question,” Patel said. “Ninety-nine percent of hospitalizations for COVID are unvaccinated. For the last three months, we haven’t had a death in a person who was fully vaccinated and was two weeks after their last vaccination. It’s not happened since we began our public vaccination effort.”
People at medical branch hospitals sick with COVID mostly are unvaccinated by choice, Patel said. Often Patel has encountered people reciting false information about vaccine science or other “mumbo jumbo,” he said.
Other facts about COVID-19 are relevant, of course. People already suffering from some medical conditions are more likely to be hospitalized and die.
People who suffer obesity also are at higher risk.
People older than 60 are too.
None of us can become younger, of course. None of us can immediately correct a medical condition that puts us at higher risk.
But each of us can take the simple, effective, safe step of being vaccinated and join the ranks of those unlikely to die with COVID.
• Michael A. Smith