By Jack Liddicoat (’22)
Is the Vaccine Safe?
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an unprecedented wave of misinformation, specifically regarding the vaccines. The list of claims range from ‘the vaccines don’t prevent death’ to ‘the vaccines are more likely to kill you than the virus.’ These two claims are easily refutable and the overwhelming evidence shows that the Covid-19 vaccines reduce infection, spread, hospitalization, and death.
Non-Vaccinated 26x More Likely to Be Hospitalized?
A CDC study of Covid patients in Los Angeles County showed that an unvaccinated person was twenty-nine times more likely to be hospitalized from Covid and five times more likely to be infected. Data from Washington, from February to June of 2021, shows that people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 97% of cases, 96% of hospitalizations, and 94% of deaths in the state. Similar data can be found in British Columbia, Canada where roughly 80% of cases and 85% of hospitalizations were among the unvaccinated. During the period from September 9 to September 22, an unvaccinated British Columbian was around twenty-six times as likely to be hospitalized compared to a fully vaccinated British Columbian, even after controlling for population and age.
Other data demonstrates the efficacy that vaccines provide in preventing hospitalizations from Covid-19. As of July 24, 2021, the cumulative rate of hospitalizations for unvaccinated people was 431.3/100k, while the cumulative rate for vaccinated people was 25.5/100k. This means an unvaccinated person is roughly seventeen times as likely to be hospitalized from the virus compared to a fully vaccinated person.
Data from California shows that during the week of September 23 to September 29, when nearly 99% of cases were the Delta variant, unvaccinated people were five and a half times as likely to get Covid-19 compared to vaccinated people.
North Carolina data shows that unvaccinated people are roughly fifteen and a half times more likely to die from Covid-19 compared to vaccinated people. Just eight people under 65 who had gotten vaccinated had died of Covid-19. Unvaccinated people were roughly four and half times more likely to get the virus as well.
Vaccinated People are Less Likely to Spread the Virus
This Atlantic article by Craig Spencer, an emergency medicine physician at Columbia University, debunks the myth that vaccinated people are just as likely to spread the virus as unvaccinated people. He presents data from New York City showing that through August 7, 2021, unvaccinated people made up 96.1% of all Covid-19 cases. His main point is that in order to give the virus, one must first get it. What’s more, vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus compared to unvaccinated people because they carry less viral load, according to a study by researchers in China. This was confirmed by an analysis in the Netherlands which looked at 161 Delta infections and another study from Singapore. There is also evidence that vaccinated people carry the virus for a shorter period of time compared to unvaccinated people, which obviously reduces the risk of spreading it to others.
Vaccines Save Lives, But Why Do People Resist?
A Wall Street Journal analysis showed a strong, negative correlation between percentage of a state fully vaccinated and Covid-19 hospitalizations. However, another important fact is that even states who have high vaccination rates, such as Massachusetts, still have millions of people who have not gotten the vaccine yet, so large increases in cases could still mask the effect of the vaccines because there could be an exponential increase in unvaccinated cases even in highly vaccinated states. More useful data would be akin to the California data included above that disaggregates cases per capita by vaccination status.
More importantly, however, was this recent CDC study showing that an unvaccinated person was eleven times more likely to die of Covid-19 compared to a vaccinated person. Again, they studied 32,000 patients during a time when the Delta variant was becoming more prevalent and still found that the vaccines significantly mitigated the risks caused by Covid-19 infection.
The overwhelming evidence supports the view that vaccines reduce cases, spread, hospitalizations, and deaths. Scientists are confident that this virus isn’t going away. Some of the best ways to return to normalcy is through mass vaccination efforts and increased at-home rapid-testing, which other countries such as France and Germany have readily available. As Durham Academy students, promoting vaccines ought to be a priority in order to promote community health both at the school level and at the municipal level.