Saint Vincent Hospital and UPMC Hamot reported fully vaccinated people now make up nearly 30% of all COVID-19 patients
Courtney Sampson, D.O., Saint Vincent doctor discusses Erie’s second COVID-19 surge
Courtney Sampson, D.O., a hospitalist at Saint Vincent Hospital, describes the recent spike in COVID-19 patients.
David Bruce, Erie Times-News
Erie hospitals are seeing more breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among their admitted patients.
Saint Vincent Hospital and UPMC Hamot officials each reported that their percentage of fully vaccinated patients increased this week from less than 20% of all COVID-19 admissions to nearly 30%.
Many of these patients are older people whose bodies might not process vaccine as well as younger people’s bodies do, said Christopher Clark, D.O., Saint Vincent president. In addition, their immunity may have waned if they were vaccinated during the winter when the vaccine became available.
“That’s why it’s so important for these people to get their boosters as soon as they qualify,” Clark said. “If you received a Pfizer vaccine and are 65 or older, get your booster now.”
Clark added that these vaccinated COVID-19 patients are not as severely ill, in general, as unvaccinated patients.
The increase in breakthrough hospitalizations doesn’t mean the vaccines are ineffective, said Emily Shears, vice president of quality for UPMC in Northwest Pennsylvania and New York.
“Even if the vaccine’s effectiveness wanes a bit, it still offers protection against severe COVID and they are less likely to have to come to the hospital,” Shears said.
It also reduces the risk of death due to COVID-19 complications. A vast majority of Erie County’s COVID-19 deaths, including four of the five reported Monday, have been unvaccinated people, said Melissa Lyon, Erie County Department of Health director.
But vaccinated people, regardless of age, should not ignore other COVID-19 mitigation measures, Lyon said.
“We have a lot of virus in the community and we are seeing a death a day right now due to COVID-19,” Lyon said. “We are in an unfortunate place right now in this pandemic. Everybody needs to be wearing face masks when out in public. They need to take precautions.”
The county has reported 45 deaths due to COVID-19 complications since Aug. 1, when the delta variant arrived. The only time the county has seen more COVID-19 deaths was during the initial surge from November through February.
A main difference with this surge is that a wider range of ages are getting seriously ill and dying, Clark said.
“In the previous surge, it was mostly older people and, even without the vaccine available, the younger ones got infected but usually didn’t need to be hospitalized,” Clark said.
Now patients in their 30s through 60s are getting hospitalized, though nearly all of the younger ones are unvaccinated, Clark said. The average age of Saint Vincent’s COVID-19 patients has declined to 62.
Saint Vincent has seen an increase in its number of children admitted with COVID-19, while UPMC Hamot has not.
Nine children with COVID-19 have been admitted to Saint Vincent in October, more than any other month during the pandemic. No patients have been transferred to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for critical care, Clark said.
Hamot has not admitted or transferred a pediatric COVID-19 patient in three weeks, Shears said.
COVID-19 vaccinations decline in Erie County
Erie County’s number of COVID-19 vaccinations declined last week, though its number of booster shots increased, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Here is a look at the weekly number of vaccine doses given in the county:
- Oct. 11-17 — 1,759 initial and second doses, and 2,766 additional doses
- Oct. 4-10 — 2,003 and 2,633
- Sept. 27-Oct. 3 — 2,273 and 3,150
- Sept. 20-26 — 1,881 and 806
- Sept. 13-19 — 2,119 and 251