Unvaccinated Arizonans had 31.1 times greater risk of dying from COVID in November

Jan 5, 2022, 1:00 PM | Updated: 1:39 pm

PHOENIX – Arizonans who weren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were 31.1 times more likely to die of the virus in November than those who were and 4.9 times more likely to test positive, according to data released Wednesday.

The new numbers were part of the Arizona Department of Health Services’ bi-weekly report on COVID rates by vaccination status.

“There simply is no arguing with the data: COVID-19 vaccines and boosters save lives,” ADHS Interim Director Don Herrington wrote in a blog post.

The unvaccinated risks were significantly higher than ADHS reported for October, when it was 15.2 times for death and 3.9 times for infection, in part because of a methodology change.

“This shift has to do with a change in methodology to better capture fully vaccinated individuals and may also be impacted by booster uptake,” Herrington wrote.

Although Wednesday’s report covers a timeframe before omicron emerged, hospitals are still reporting that a vast majority of COVID patients are unvaccinated.

And even though omicron is proving to produce less severe illness than previous variants, officials are worried it will create a caseload so large that hospitalizations and deaths will still rise.

Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Arizona State University Biodesign Institute, said that while vaccines provide significant protection from severe illness and death from omicron, the variant is causing a high rate of breakthrough infections in people who haven’t had a booster shot.

“If you get a booster dose, then the protection goes from roughly 25% to over 75%, so a huge bump in protection from a booster vaccine,” he said in a press briefing Wednesday.

“This is just a plea for ‘it’s much better to prevent this disease than to try to treat it.'”

The state dashboard on Wednesday showed 70% of Arizonans old enough to get vaccinated had received at least one shot, with 58.8% fully vaccinated. The ADHS dashboard doesn’t show booster data.

The minimum age to receive the Pfizer shot is 5, and it’s 18 for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The Pfizer version has full Food and Drug Administration approval, while the other two were granted emergency use authorization.

Health officials strongly recommend booster shots for adults (including people 16 and older for Pfizer) who received their second Moderna dose more than six months ago, their second Pfizer does more than five months ago or the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago.

For details about statewide vaccine availability, the ADHS website has a vaccine-finder page with locations and other information.

For information about metro Phoenix vaccine availability, Maricopa County Public Health has a locator page that lists pharmacies, government-run sites, health clinics and pop-up distribution events. Appointments may be required depending on the provider.

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Unvaccinated Arizonans had 31.1 times greater risk of dying from COVID in November