LANCASTER, Pa. - For months, healthcare leaders have been pleading with Pennsylvanians to roll up their sleeves and get the COVID-19 vaccine. Now they have new numbers to back it up.

The state Department of Health has released data that show people who aren't vaccinated are at a much higher risk of having serious complications or even dying from the virus.

They studied information from breakthrough cases from January to September of this year. A breakthrough case is someone who came down with the virus after being fully vaccinated. The Department of Health says its data shows the people who do become infected after getting vaccinated are less likely to have serious symptoms and issues from COVID-19.

News conference on Pa. report on breakthrough cases

“With nearly seven million Pennsylvanians fully vaccinated, the data makes it clear: the vaccines are safe and effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said Tuesday during a news conference at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital’s Suburban Pavilion.

“The overwhelming majority of the COVID-19 related cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Pennsylvania occurred in people who were not vaccinated,” she said. “In fact, the data shows that compared to unvaccinated people, fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians are seven times less likely to get COVID-19, and eight times less likely to die from COVID-19.”Tuesday’s online report shows that since January 2021:

97 percent of COVID-19-related deaths were in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people. Among a total of 6,472 COVID-19-related deaths identified in Pennsylvania in 2021, the latest data shows 213, or three percent, post-vaccination deaths identified, according to the state health department.

Cumulative death incidence among the unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated was 7.9 times as high as the death incidence among the fully vaccinated, the state health department said.

95 percent of reported hospitalizations with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis/cause of admission were in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people, according to the state health department news release.

Among a total of 34,468 hospitalizations with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis/cause of admission reported in Pennsylvania, 1,820 were reported to have occurred in fully vaccinated people. These figures account for data from 55 percent of all hospitals and 69 percent of acute care hospitals in Pennsylvania, representing approximately 80 percent of acute care beds in the state.

94 percent of reported COVID-19 cases were in unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated people, according to the state Department of Health. Among a total of 639,729 positive cases, there have been 35,389, or six percent, identified post-vaccination cases. Cumulative case incidence among the unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated was 7.1 times as high as the case incidence among the fully vaccinated.

“While masking and social distancing will help to reduce the risk of becoming infected and transmitting COVID-19, vaccines are the most effective way to protect those who are vulnerable, including the immunocompromised, and our children who are too young to get the vaccine,” said Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael Ripchinski.

“This data is further proof that the vaccines are our best tool to protect ourselves against the virus, keep our children learning in schools, keep our workforce in-person, and foster social and economic recovery,” Beam said. “Every person who chooses to get vaccinated brings us a step closer to moving past the pandemic.”

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