Iowa sees more vaccinated COVID-19 patients amid record surge in cases

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:55 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG/KTIV) - Fully vaccinated Iowans are making up a growing percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations as the state reports record highs for cases.

New data from the Iowa Department of Public Health on Wednesday shows Iowa reported 36,823 new positive tests in the past 7 days, surpassing the previous record set on Monday by a few hundred.

The actual rate is likely much higher as the state’s own data indicates. The state site shows a weekly average of 46,012 positive tests on January 14th, indicating a lag in reporting of test results to the state. This also doesn’t account for at-home COVID-19 tests, which the state does not track.

The state data also suggests the declining effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine against the Omicron variant, which is fueling the surge in cases worldwide. On Wednesday, 64% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 were unvaccinated. That number has fallen steadily from 82% on December 24th and 73% on January 7th, meaning more fully-vaccinated people are ending up in the hospital. The state data does not break down hospitalizations for those who have also received their booster.

In Woodbury County specifically, there are 51 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Jan. 19. Currently, multiple age groups are seeing more fully-vaccinated patients than unvaccinated patients. Siouxland District Health Deputy Director Tyler Brock says it’s a new trend, but not unusual.

“As we know, the vaccine wanes over time, and so, the longer, you know, most of our vaccination programs, especially for our older folks, were last winter, early spring, so we’re a good- we’re almost a year out from that time period, so we would expect some vaccine to be waning a little bit in those situations,” said Brock.

According to the Siouxland District Health Department, here are the latest COVID-19 numbers in Woodbury County:

  • Right now there are 51 county residents hospitalized with the virus. Ten of which are in the ICU, with 40 ICU beds still available.
  • When you look specifically at the 60- to 69-year-old age group, you see six unvaccinated patients hospitalized, compared to eight fully vaccinated patients in the hospital.
  • In the 70 to 79 age range, four unvaccinated patients are hospitalized, compared to nine fully vaccinated patients in the hospital.

Brock says the best thing to do to stay safe is to follow all precautions.

“We wanna pay especially attention if we are in our high-risk groups, you know, so if we got some age to us, right?” said Brock. “If we’re in our older age categories, you know, really trying to do the things that you can, whether it’s getting the booster, whether it’s getting your first dose of vaccine, again, they are helping with serious illness, so if we’re in high-risk categories, do the things that you know, you know, kinda limit your risk and can reduce the impact of this virus.”

That data backs up evidence from the CDC showing the 2-dose Pfizer vaccine significantly less effective at preventing infection and severe illness with Omicron compared to the Delta variant of COVID-19.

However, a British study found a booster dose significantly increased protection against both infection and severe illness.

The rate of hospitalizations also backs up evidence that Omicron is less severe in general than earlier variants of COVID-19. While Iowa has reported record cases now for more than a week, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is 991. That’s well below the previous peaks in November 2020 of 1,527. That suggests fewer of those with COVID-19 now are getting severely ill, which backs up data the CDC reported on Omicron.

Copyright 2022 KTIV. KCRG contributed to this article. All rights reserved.