AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The vast majority of COVID patients in Amarillo hospitals are not vaccinated, but some vaccinated people are still getting sick enough to be hospitalized. Here’s why one local health expert said the data show that vaccines are working.
The Amarillo Public Health Department’s COVID-19 Hospitalization report card for Friday, August 27 showed nearly 94% of COVID patients in Amarillo hospitals were not vaccinated. Less than 7% of COVID patients are vaccinated, so why are they still getting sick?
Dr. Todd Bell, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Amarillo, said the first reason is that COVID vaccines do not entirely prevent infection.
“They’re still actually very effective, but they’re not 100%,” said Dr. Bell. “So, the more people that we have that get infected in the community, if we have 1,000 people infected and 90% protected by vaccines, that still means we got 100 people that are going to end up in the hospital, even though they’re vaccinated.”
He also said those at the highest risk from the virus are the most likely to have gotten vaccinated months ago.
“If we could theoretically think that, if 100% of our population was vaccinated, we’d only have 10% of the the number that we currently have that are in the hospital. But of those 10%, 100% of them would be vaccinated.”Dr. Todd Bell, Associate Professor in the Pediatrics Department at TTUHSC
“So it’s not surprising then that we find that those folks are also at greater risk of, compared to someone who was healthy and vaccinated, that those folks are going to be at greater risk of ending up in the hospital.”
Dr. Bell said over time, as vaccinated people make up a larger portion of the population, the percentage of vaccinated people in hospitals will increase while the total number of hospitalizations decreases.
“If we could theoretically think that, if 100% of our population was vaccinated, we’d only have 10% of the the number that we currently have that are in the hospital,” said Dr. Bell. “But of those 10%, 100% of them would be vaccinated.”
“It’s mathematically probable that almost everybody in Amarillo is going to either be vaccinated or is going to be infected with the virus over the course of the next few months.”Dr. Bell
He continued, “That doesn’t tell us that the vaccine is not working. As a matter of fact, the fact that if people are vaccinated, then our hospitalization rates go down, then that tells us that the vaccines work.”
However, less than half of the population in Potter and Randall Counties are vaccinated.
“If people’s plan to avoid getting COVID is just to avoid being exposed, that’s no longer an option. Everybody is going to be exposed to COVID at some point,” said Dr. Bell. “It’s mathematically probable that almost everybody in Amarillo is going to either be vaccinated or is going to be infected with the virus over the course of the next few months.”
He says our low vaccination rate means more people are being infected with COVID.
“Those people that are getting infected are the ones who are ending up in the end are unvaccinated for the most part of those are the ones who are ending up in the hospital. So the low vaccination rate directly corresponds to the high strain that we have in our ICUs.”
Dr. Bell said some vaccinated people will still die from COVID, but most people are at greater risk without the vaccine.
“We also see that about almost 25% of those folks who have died from the disease actually were also vaccinated,” Dr. Bell said, looking at the number of deaths in our community. “But you could theoretically think that those are folks who have significant comorbidities, they may be folks who have active cancer, or are getting chemotherapy, or have immuno suppressing diseases. So, those are folks that that either may not have responded as well to the vaccine, or just unfortunately died in spite of the vaccine.”
He likened getting vaccinated to wearing a life vest saying, “Having a life vest is not a 100% guarantee that you’re not going to drown, but your chances are so much better if you have your life vest on and you’re floating in a lake in the storm, than if you don’t have a life vest.”
As the Delta variant continues to be highly transmitted in the Amarillo area, Dr. Bell said people will need to layer their protective methods.
“First of all, you can get vaccinated. So, if you’re not vaccinated, you need to be,” he continued. “So, if you’re immunocompromised, remember, we have a third dose that’s available for immunocompromised individuals. They need to get that third dose. And even if you’re vaccinated, you also need to wear masks.”