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COUNTY: Most COVID-19 deaths were unvaccinated patients

By Bob Conrad

Data from the Washoe County Health District provided to This Is Reno show most people who died from COVID-19 in the county were unvaccinated.

Vaccines, health experts maintain, while not 100% effective, notably curb death rates and reduce the seriousness of illness. Of the more than 1,000 who have died in Washoe County from the coronavirus disease, 68 were fully vaccinated. Only two people, women in their 90s, who were fully vaccinated and had received the booster vaccine, died. 

The county data include all COVID deaths since the start of the pandemic. Boosters were only recommended for all adults starting in November of 2021 and vaccines, first available in December of 2020, only became readily available to everyone about May of 2021.

The local data nevertheless are similar to national figures. Researchers with the Petersen Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation found most – but not all – deaths of those unvaccinated could have been prevented.

“Even if all of the unvaccinated people who died of COVID-19 had chosen to get vaccinated, some of those deaths may not have been preventable, as vaccines are not 100% effective,” they wrote in December. “A recent CDC study showed age-standardized vaccine effectiveness against deaths of 91% in the June 20 – July 17 period and 94% in the April 4 – June 19 period. Based on this study, we assume 91% of COVID-19 deaths likely would have been prevented with COVID-19 inoculations.”

These numbers are similar nationally and globally, according to University of Oxford researchers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found about 92% of deaths and hospitalizations were of those who were unvaccinated.

The unvaccinated are more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and to die from COVID-19 than the vaccinated, the CDC research indicates.

The death rate among vaccinated versus unvaccinated will continue to evolve. The predominant omicron variant is showing signs of being less severe despite being the most contagious COVID-19 variant. The region is seeing unprecedented omicron cases which has put the county at a severe rating for risk of transmission.

Record cases continue to shut down or slow service availability as more and more people have to isolate themselves after testing positive. 

Although some people dismiss COVID-19 as just another flu or cold, death rates from the virus show COVID-19 is far more deadly. About 850,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 to date – and 5.5 million worldwide – compared with the flu, which kills up to an estimated 650,000 worldwide each year. 

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S., under heart disease and cancer in November 2021. It was the leading cause of death in January a year ago and was the leading cause of death for those ages 45-54 in October 2021.

Data locally and worldwide also show the virus is more dangerous the older you are, and most who died also had underlying health conditions, which can include things like heart conditions, diabetes and obesity. 

Nearly 100 people aged 49 and under have died from COVID-19 in Washoe County since the start of the pandemic. Only one of those, a woman in her 40s, was fully vaccinated but had not received the booster shot.

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