GREEN BAY (NBC26) — New data from the Associated Press shows the vast majority of COVID deaths in the U.S are among those who are unvaccinated. An AP analysis of government data from May shows that only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8% or five deaths per day on average.
Additionally, the data shows that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people only accounted for about 0.1% of hospitalizations. Breakthrough infections made up fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations in May.
Ajay Sethi, an associate professor of population health sciences at UW-Madison, says this data confirms the effectiveness of the vaccine that was apparent in clinical trials even before the vaccine was authorized by the FDA.
"They're proving exactly what the science showed all along that indeed if you get vaccinated you can prevent the risk of death and the risk of hospitalization almost exclusively," Sethi said.
Even in rare cases where fully-vaccinated individuals do become infected, he says the vaccine helps to prevent severe symptoms. Karen Schmitz, who currently lives in Alaska, contracted COVID-19 even after being vaccinated earlier this year.
"It was kind of unbelievable to me at all but I guess the first thing i thought was thank goodness I had been vaccinated,” Schmitz said.
She says she was thankful because doctors said the vaccine prevented her from having severe symptoms.
"I do believe that’s what kind of saved me from that because I'm also immunocompromised so I could have had a very bad case,” Schmitz said.
"Even if you were to get infected, most people aren't going to experience any symptoms and if they are they're going to be very mild," Sethi said.
Sethi says that with new variants of the virus emerging, it's more urgent now than ever to get the vaccine, especially for those who are the most at-risk.
"The delta variant in particular and now the delta-plus are just highly, highly infectious. So we're seeing this new virus pretty much infecting exclusively unvaccinated individuals," Sethi said. "If somebody feels like they are optimistic that they can avoid getting COVID and so they don't need to be vaccinated because maybe up until this point they haven't gotten infected, I'd say re-think that."