Why vaccinated people die from Covid-19 doesn’t mean the vaccines aren’t effective – Community News
Covid-19

Why vaccinated people die from Covid-19 doesn’t mean the vaccines aren’t effective

Health officials worry that anti-vaccine activists will use Powell’s death to argue that vaccines don’t work. If you can still die after being vaccinated against Covid-19, what’s the point of getting the vaccine?

What is the answer to that question? I discussed it with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also author of a new book, “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.”

CNN: If we see vaccinated people dying from Covid-19, how do you explain that vaccines are still worth it?

dr. Leana Wen: We have to start with the science and what the research shows. The Covid-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing diseases and especially serious illnesses. The most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that they increase the chance of testing positive for Covid-19 sixfold and reduce the risk of death by an 11-fold.

That means if you’re vaccinated, you’re six times less likely to get Covid-19 than someone who hasn’t been vaccinated. And you are 11 times less likely to die from Covid-19 compared to an unvaccinated person. That’s really excellent.

However, the Covid-19 vaccines do not protect you 100%. No vaccine does that, probably almost no medical treatment is 100% effective. That doesn’t mean the vaccine won’t work, or that you shouldn’t take it.

CNN: His some people are more likely to suffer serious consequences from Covid-19, despite vaccination?

wen: Yes, and based on what we learned, General Powell fell into that category. We know that individuals who are older and have underlying medical conditions are more likely to develop serious illness and death from breakthrough infections. Those at particular risk are people who are immunocompromised. Having multiple myeloma would put General Powell in this category and, in addition to his older age, would increase the level of risk.

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Note that this is one of the reasons booster shots are recommended. In August, federal health officials recommended that people with moderate or severe immune compromises, who had the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, receive a third dose of the vaccine. They warned that even with the extra dose, immunocompromised individuals should take extra precautions. That’s because this is a category of people who are particularly prone to serious consequences.

CNN: You’ve said before that vaccines work best when everyone takes them, right?

woman: Precisely. Think of the Covid-19 vaccine as a very good raincoat. It works very well to protect you in a drizzle. But if you’re in a thunderstorm, and then a hurricane comes, you’re much more likely to get wet. That does not mean that your raincoat is defective. It means you’re in bad weather, and the raincoat alone may not always protect you.

If you have a lot of viruses around, it increases your chance of getting infected. The problem isn’t the vaccine — it’s that there are too many viruses around you.

That is why it is important to have as many people vaccinated as possible. That reduces the overall infection rate and ultimately protects everyone. And if you’re in an area with a lot of viruses, wearing a mask in crowded indoor areas adds an extra level of protection.

And let’s not forget that we also get vaccinated to protect the most vulnerable among us, who are most at risk of serious consequences.

A six-month study in 13 states showed that fully vaccinated individuals accounted for only 4% of all hospitalizations due to Covid-19.

According to that CDC study, unvaccinated people are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized for coronavirus than fully vaccinated adults. Those who end up with breakthrough cases that result in hospitalization are more likely to be older and have multiple underlying medical conditions, as we discussed.

CNN: What else would you say to those who don’t believe the vaccine is effective?

woman: I would ask them to think about other aspects of medicine. Let’s say someone has a heart condition. There are drugs to treat heart disease, but they are not 100% effective – nothing is. Just because someone ends up with a worsening illness and hospitalized doesn’t mean the drugs aren’t worth taking.

Or let’s use an example of prevention. Suppose that someone who eats healthy and moves a lot still develops high blood pressure and diabetes. That doesn’t mean diet and exercise aren’t the right thing to do. It just means that you can take all the right steps to prevent a disease, but sometimes you can still get the disease.

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One of the biggest conundrums in public health is that the work we do revolves around prevention. While you see the end result if and when prevention fails, you don’t see all lives saved through prevention.

A pilot study supported by the National Institutes of Health found that the Covid-19 vaccines prevented more than 139,000 deaths in the first five months they were available. As of May 9, there were approximately 570,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States. Without vaccines, 709,000 could have been killed.

The bottom line is that vaccines work. They reduce the risk of illness, becoming seriously ill and death. They are not 100% because nothing is.

CNN: Could vaccines also prevent a virus flare-up this winter?

woman: Yes. It is encouraging that the number of Covid-19 infections is falling due to the terrible delta wave that has consumed the country this summer. However, a new wave of infections is possible, especially now that only 57% of the US population is fully vaccinated. I agree with dr. Anthony Fauci, who said this weekend that “it is within our power to prevent this from happening… The extent to which we continue to descend that slope depends on how well we do getting more people vaccinated.”

Ultimately, the key to reducing everyone’s risk of Covid-19 — and ending the pandemic — is that we all get vaccinated. This protects us and the people around us.