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

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 12:20 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - 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 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 breakdown hospitalizations for those who have also received their booster.

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.

Doctor Tony Myers with Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids told TV9 earlier this month he believes vaccines are helping make Omicron seem even less severe.

”The critical thing that makes it less severe is the vaccine. We gotta remember that is one of the things that makes it less severe,” Dr. Myers said.

Dr. Myers says that has helped ease the burden on hospitals strained from more patients and more staff out sick with COVID-19.

“Luckily people that are vaccinated, especially if they’re boosted, if they do end up getting hospitalized they do tend to have milder illness and tend to go home quicker and that’s really helping us right now,” Dr. Myers said.

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