Nov. 23, 2021 -- A Wall Street Journal analysis found that among fully vaccinated people, the ones most likely to be hospitalized with breakthrough infections of COVID-19 are the elderly and those with specific underlying medical conditions.
“In particular, people with diabetes, chronic lung disease, kidney disease and compromised immune systems were at risk of serious outcomes from breakthrough cases,” The Journal reported.
Overall, fully vaccinated people accounted for 1.89 million breakthrough cases, 72,000 hospitalizations, and 20,000 deaths in the United States this year, The Journal said.
While unvaccinated people account for most of the COVID-19 hospitalizations, health officials have noted that a growing number of fully vaccinated people who haven’t gotten a booster shot are being hospitalized with breakthrough cases.
The Journal analysis gets specific about which groups are most vulnerable.
Because the CDC doesn’t publish a raw tally of breakthrough cases, Journal reporters examined medical data of 21 million fully vaccinated people and state reports to reach its conclusions, often using data from private firms.
For instance, fully vaccinated people with diabetes, chronic lung disease, or chronic kidney disease were about twice as likely to be hospitalized with breakthrough COVID as vaccinated people without these conditions, The Journal said, citing a data aggregation firm, Truveta Inc., that accessed medical records of 1.7 million fully vaccinated people.
Not all breakthrough cases result in hospitalization, but some conditions make it more likely.
Among breakthrough patients with chronic kidney disease, a quarter of them were hospitalized, Truveta said. In comparison, among fully vaccinated people without underlying conditions, only 7.5% of breakthrough cases resulted in hospitalization, The Journal said.
The elderly are especially vulnerable to breakthrough cases because old age weakens a person’s immune system.
About 80% of deaths in breakthrough cases are in people 65 and older, The Journal reported, citing data from the Epic Health Research Network. Epic analyzed data from the medical-record software company Epic Systems Corp.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a breakthrough case as occurring when a person tests positive at least two weeks after becoming fully vaccinated.