In a pandemic marked by uncertainty, one element has become clear on Long Island and around the country: Very few fully vaccinated people end up hospitalized from COVID-19.
Long-range studies covering earlier parts of the pandemic bear that out. A state Department of Health/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaboration found that from May 3 to July 25, vaccinated New Yorkers had at least a 90% lower chance of being hospitalized from COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated New Yorkers. National numbers follow a similar trend.
The vaccines don't stop all infections, and some fully vaccinated people do end up in the hospital, a major concern as the delta variant has spread. But even in recent weeks, the unvaccinated are much more likely to be infected, and it is still overwhelmingly the unvaccinated getting hospitalized for COVID-19 on Long Island. Of COVID-19 patients in Catholic Health’s six hospitals, 80% were unvaccinated, and at Northwell Health hospitals nearly 80% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated as well, spokeswomen said last week. Those numbers are even more impressive evidence for vaccination effectiveness given that Long Island's unvaccinated population is smaller than its vaccinated one.
Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau, recently told Newsday that "the vast majority of new cases in the ICU, intubated and deaths are in unvaccinated people."
Wendy Darwell, president and CEO of Suburban Hospital Alliance of NYS, says this level of unvaccinated hospitalizations is consistent with information obtained from Long Island hospitals, adding that for vaccinated people who end up hospitalized "generally there are other serious health care conditions at work."
The message from all this is surprisingly simple: Getting a vaccine largely keeps you out of a grim encounter with hospitalization, or death.
Without a vaccine, there is a great risk of getting seriously ill and requiring hospitalization in an intensive care unit for COVID-19. Patients there tend to be ventilated, unconscious for long stretches, and sedated so that tubes can go down their windpipes. You might have to be rolled over on your stomach as one more effort to help you breathe.
This suffering is preventable. And no one benefits from hospitals being on edge with unvaccinated individuals who take beds and require attention from doctors and nurses and hospital administrators, even if emergency rooms don't get crammed.
The majority of adults in Nassau and Suffolk counties have already gotten vaccinated. We have argued in the past that people should get vaccinated to help protect others — and that is still the case, to reduce the likelihood of disease spread, safeguard the vulnerable and immunocompromised, and stop future variants in their tracks. But at this point, the person with the most to gain by getting that first vaccine shot appears to be you.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.