Health Care

Vermont publishes more Covid-19 breakthrough case data on daily dashboard

Note: This story is more than a week old. Given how quickly the Covid-19 pandemic is evolving, we recommend that you read our latest coverage here.

Unvaccinated Vermonters are at far greater risk of Covid-19 infection, hospitalization and death than vaccinated Vermonters.

That’s the conclusion — once again — of newly published data from the Vermont Department of Health, which began adding more details of breakthrough cases to its daily dashboard on Wednesday. 

The data is similar to other published reports that have, for several months, provided the rate of breakthrough cases and severe complications from the disease. But the dashboard now makes it possible to drill down on age groups for each metric. It’s still limited to providing data for cases and hospitalizations on a weekly basis, and data for deaths on a monthly basis.

The dashboard backs up previous state data and a wealth of scientific research that shows fully vaccinated people are at lower risk of contracting, being hospitalized by and dying from Covid-19. In Vermont, the gaps between vaccinated and unvaccinated Vermonters have grown during the Delta surge.

Unvaccinated Vermonters are now roughly four times more likely to test positive for Covid than fully vaccinated Vermonters. (The department did not take into account whether each vaccinated person had received a booster dose.)

Screenshot via Vermont Department of Health daily Covid-19 dashboard

During the summer lull in cases, the rate of hospitalizations among unvaccinated Vermonters was similar to that of vaccinated Vermonters. However, as case counts rose, hospitalizations increased faster among unvaccinated Vermonters, peaking in late November. 

According to data from the Department of Financial Regulation, nearly three-quarters of hospital and critical care patients in Vermont are unvaccinated. 

Screenshot via Vermont Department of Health daily Covid-19 dashboard

The dashboard limits data on breakthrough deaths to a monthly basis, possibly because the small sample size might otherwise skew their findings. 

At one point, it appeared that deaths were higher for vaccinated Vermonters — but experts have cautioned that without taking the ages of victims into account, the data can be misleading. 

The vaccination rate among Vermonters 65 and older is nearly 100%, while the most recent age group to become eligible — 5- to 11-year-olds — has a vaccination rate closer to 50%. Older Vermonters are also susceptible to more severe forms of the disease. Those two factors can combine to make it appear that vaccinated Vermonters have higher rates of death.

Despite that tendency, that trend in deaths has since reversed, with unvaccinated Vermonters about three times as likely to die of the disease than fully vaccinated Vermonters.

Screenshot via Vermont Department of Health daily Covid-19 dashboard

The gap in cases among unvaccinated Vermonters appears highest among the youngest age groups, which were made eligible for the vaccine only this fall.

Screenshot via Vermont Department of Health daily Covid-19 dashboard

But when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths, the very few people left unvaccinated in the 65 and older age group have a far higher rate of severe complications of the disease. 

Vaccinated older Vermonters are clearly still at risk. Those who are vaccinated and age 80 or older had a higher death rate than unvaccinated people age 60 to 69. National data shows a similar gap, since about 75% of deaths from Covid-19 in the United States have been among people 65 or older.

Screenshot via Vermont Department of Health daily Covid-19 dashboard
Screenshot via Vermont Department of Health daily Covid-19 dashboard

The underlying data is available for download on the Vermont Center for Geographic Information’s website.

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Erin Petenko

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