September 20, 2021

Unvaccinated people account for majority of new Illinois COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and infections

State data from May and June confirm overwhelming majority of new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths came in the unvaccinated population

New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Illinois in May and June occurred largely among unvaccinated people, according to state data provided to Shaw Media.

For May, 94.5% of new COVID-19 cases, 91.3% of new hospitalizations and 93.7% of new deaths were among people either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

In June, 87% of new cases, 86.5% of new hospitalizations and 89.6% of new deaths were among those either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

To be fully vaccinated, a person must have received the final dose of a vaccine within the past 14 days. July numbers are not yet available.

As the vaccine rate in Illinois has slowed from a peak of about 131,000 vaccine doses a day in April to about 20,000 per day in mid-July, Illinois Department of Public Health spokesperson Melaney Arnold emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated in light of who is getting sick and hospitalized.

“The data is clear,” Arnold said. “Vaccination is protecting people against severe COVID-19, illness, hospitalization and deaths. All three vaccines currently authorized in the U.S. have been found to be effective against variants, to varying degrees. The bottom line is that vaccines are protecting people against severe illness hospitalization and deaths, and people who chose not to get vaccinated face a greater risk of hospitalization and death.”

A little more than half of Illinois residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the most recent available state data.

Month% new COVID-19 cases: Unvaccinated% new COVID-19 hospitalizations: Unvaccinated% new COVID-19 deaths: Unvaccinated

Kim Armour, vice president and chief nurse executive at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, said she is noticing a similar trend in her region, with the majority of new cases in unvaccinated individuals.

She encouraged those who have not been fully vaccinated to get their shots, especially with the rise in cases of the more transmissible delta variant. The CDC said that nationally, 83% of new cases in mid-July were sequenced to the delta variant.

“People who are unvaccinated are even more at risk to acquire COVID and, more importantly, when they get the disease, they are sicker when they come to our hospitals,” Armour said. “They have a worse case of COVID than someone who is vaccinated and who already has antibodies onboard.”

Breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths do happen, even if they are a small minority of the overall picture. A breakthrough case is when a fully vaccinated person gets infected with the coronavirus. A small number of such cases are expected, and health officials have said they’re not a cause for alarm.

If someone does end up getting sick despite vaccination, public health experts said the shots are very good at reducing the severity of the illness, which is the main reason to get vaccinated. Most people with breakthrough infections experience mild illness, said Dr. William Moss, a vaccine expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

With the increase in cases of the delta variant, vaccines may prove to be less effective, but public health officials have said a booster shot of the vaccine is not necessary at this time.

“Emerging evidence suggests that attack rates for the delta variant are potentially higher than are those for other variants of concern,” Arnold said.

Armour said she believes that a fair number of COVID-19-positive cases may be the delta variant.

“COVID treatment remains unchanged, and currently we do not treat based on a specific variant,” Armour said.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report. Shaw Media plans on updating this story again in August to continue to look at this trend.

John Sahly

John Sahly

John Sahly is the digital editor for the Shaw Media Local News Network. He has been with Shaw Media since 2008, previously serving as the Northwest Herald's digital editor, and the Daily Chronicle sports editor and sports reporter.