Unvaccinated were over 3 times more likely to be hospitalized or die of COVID, Oklahoma study shows

Dana Branham

Unvaccinated people were more likely to test positive for COVID-19, more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die of the disease compared with those who have been vaccinated, a new study from the State Health Department shows.

Across all age groups, people who weren’t vaccinated were more than three times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 or die from the virus than those who were vaccinated. 

The study, which looked at data from October to November 2021, underscores the importance of vaccinations for COVID-19 and how the shots can save lives. Only 54% of Oklahoma’s population has been fully vaccinated.

Don't go to the ER just for a COVID-19 test, OKC hospitals say. Here's where to find one

State epidemiologist Jolianne Stone said the state’s findings were consistent with other studies throughout the nation.

Study conducted during delta variant surge

The time period for the analysis focused on a stretch when the delta variant made up the vast majority of cases. It’s still early to know for sure how the omicron variant surge may differ, though early signs show vaccines are working, Stone said.

“Even though we are still early in what we are seeing, evidence still seems to be upholding that (vaccination) is helping protect against severe disease, hospitalization and death,” Stone said.

The findings were even more dramatic when broken out by age groups. For the 45 to 54 age group, for example, the risk of hospitalization was 10 times higher for those who hadn’t been vaccinated compared with those who were. 

Omicron variant symptoms:Record-high COVID-19 cases hit Oklahoma as omicron variant surges in state

And in the 55 to 64 age group, there was an 18 times higher risk of death from COVID-19 for unvaccinated people compared to those who had been vaccinated. 

The risk reduction for younger age groups may be more dramatic because younger people may mount a stronger immune response after vaccination, Stone said. Underlying health conditions may be another factor, she said.

For people under 65, the risk of death from COVID-19 is reduced by 90% through vaccination, and 70% for people over 65.

“While people who are vaccinated are getting infected — we're definitely seeing breakthrough infections — the risk of hospitalization and death is profoundly higher in people who are not vaccinated,” Dr. Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief COVID officer, said about the report. 


Vaccines offer more protection for those previously infected with COVID

Another analysis from the state Health Department compared breakthrough case rates to rates of reinfection with COVID-19 and found that vaccinated people were 20% less likely to have a COVID-19 diagnosis than people who had been previously infected. That study looked at data from Jan. 1, 2021, through the end of September 2021. 

“Our results show that vaccination is at least equal to, and generally more protective, than previous infection,” the study from the state Health Department said. “It is critical to note that vaccination also presents far less risk of negative outcomes than does natural infection.”

Health experts have stressed that vaccinations are safe, effective and the best way to protect oneself from COVID-19. Anyone 5 years old and up is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, which is free and readily available at a number of locations.

People 12 and older also may be eligible for a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, depending on when they were initially vaccinated. 

More:Who needs a COVID-19 booster dose? Here's where you can get one in Oklahoma City.

To find a vaccination appointment near you, visit vaccines.gov to search by ZIP code. More opportunities to get vaccinated can be found at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov. Oklahoma City-area options can be found at vaxokc.com