DHS data: Deaths, hospitalizations much more likely among unvaccinated people in Wisconsin

DHS data: Deaths, hospitalizations much more likely among unvaccinated people in Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- New state data is providing a clearer picture of COVID-19 infection rates among people who are fully vaccinated versus those who are not.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services, or DHS, launched a new resource that helps visualize the rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths per 100,000 people in fully vaccinated and non-fully vaccinated people.

The new COVID-19: Illness After Vaccination webpage displays data by month, beginning in February of 2021. The overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites who are infected with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated, according to DHS.

DHS said in a news release, in July, people who were not fully vaccinated were nearly three times more likely to test positive for COVID-19. Additionally, they were hospitalized for COVID-19-related illnesses at a rate 2.7 times higher than people who are fully vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated also saw a 10-fold reduction in risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to not fully vaccinated people.

DHS said it is normal to expect some infections among fully vaccinated people because no vaccine is 100 percent effective at preventing infection.

"Breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people happen. The risk is dramatically lower in vaccinated people than in unvaccinated people. And it's particularly lower when we talk about hospitalizations, severe cases and deaths," said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, during a media briefing on Thursday, Aug. 19.

During the briefing, state leaders painted a bleak picture of the current COVID-19 trends, including a surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Kenneth Kingsby watched COVID-19 spread through his community, and he himself contracted COVID-19 a few months ago.

"I've lost a number of friends and it's just terrifying," he said. "I'll tell you: it was nothing nice -- hard to breathe, a lot of coughing."

He's now fully vaccinated and brought his family to St. Gabriel's Church on Thursday to get vaccinated as well.

"I've seen his pain. He couldn't be around the grandkids, couldn't be around the family and it took a toll out on him. So I just wanted to make sure that I got myself together and took the precautions and did the right thing," said his son Tyson Kingsby, who got vaccinated Thursday.

This week, DHS authorized people with weakened immune systems to get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, if they got Pfizer or Moderna more than 28 days ago.

As for the rest of the population, Westergaard said DHS is putting together a plan to give booster shots soon, potentially this fall.

"It does seem that the level of protection from vaccines seem to wane over time," he said.

The federal guidance this week is people can get a booster shot eight months after they got Moderna or Pfizer.

But Westergaard explained that is just a recommendation at this point. The guidance has to be cleared by a CDC panel and then get authorized by the FDA before the general public is eligible for a booster shot.

CBS 58 asked DHS whether Wisconsin plans to open mass vaccine clinics to administer booster shots, similar to the site at the Wisconsin Center earlier this year. Westergaard said he did not have any information to share at this time.

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