Unvaccinated people 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19, Texas data shows

From Sept. 4 to Oct. 1, unvaccinated people were 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19 complications than fully vaccinated people, according to state data.

A Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is prepared during a pop-up vaccine clinic at Cristo Rey Church in East Austin in July. (Michael Minasi / KUT)

Ashley Lopez, KUT News

Unvaccinated people in Texas have been far more likely to catch the coronavirus and die from it compared to vaccinated people — particularly during the surge of the delta variant — according to an analysis released Monday. 

Researchers at the Texas Department of State Health Services combed through millions of electronic lab records, death certifications and state immunization records spanning back to Jan 15.

From Sept. 4 to Oct. 1 — which is when the delta variant became the dominant strain in Texas — unvaccinated people were 13 times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people and 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19 complications than fully vaccinated people.

Dr. Jennifer Shuford, chief state epidemiologist for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said health outcome differences were staggering across all age groups.

“Any age group that you look at, being fully vaccinated truly protected people significantly from COVID-19 death,” she said.

This difference in health outcomes was most pronounced among younger people. For people in their 30s, the risk of dying from COVID-19 was 48 times higher in unvaccinated people than in vaccinated people. For people in their 40s, the risk was 63 times higher.

“Being fully vaccinated is really protective especially for those 30- to 39-year-olds and 40- to 49-year-olds,” Shuford said.

In the month between Sept. 4 and Oct. 1, fewer than 10 fully vaccinated people died from COVID-19 between the ages of 18 and 29. In that same age group and timeframe, 339 unvaccinated people died from COVID. According to the state’s analysis, unvaccinated people in this age range were 99 times more likely to die from COVID compared to their vaccinated peers.

Among all age groups from Jan. 15 to Oct. 1, state researchers found unvaccinated folks were 40 times more likely to die from COVID than vaccinated folks.

Because vaccines are so effective among young people, even during the delta surge, Shuford said the average age of death among unvaccinated populations is lower compared to that of vaccinated populations.

“It kind of skews the age groups,” she said. “What that tells us is that the protection that these vaccines provide to younger people is really strong.”

Despite a surge in breakthrough cases during the delta variant surge, overall the vaccine vastly lowered the rate of infection among vaccinated people. 

According to the state’s study, between Jan. 15 and Oct. 1, “unvaccinated people were 45 times more likely to have an infection with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people.” 

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