The past few months have seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the fully vaccinated portion of Pennsylvania’s population.
And, at best, the data is five weeks old.
The most recent sign of the trend is the latest update from Tower Health, which showed on Tuesday that eight of 11 patients were considered fully vaccinated.
This criterion is the two-dose treatment of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson product. But, the fully vaccinated moniker sticks around, no matter how long since the last shot, and vaccinations have slowed to a trickle.
“The Ministry of Health recommends that everyone who is eligible for vaccines should get vaccinated. up to date (for most people 12 and older, that means fully vaccinated and boosted), with their vaccination regimen to protect against COVID-19 and its multiple variants,” said Mark O’Neill, press officer for the agency in an emailed statement, adding the bold . “Although the effectiveness of vaccines may diminish over time, booster shots have been and continue to be widely available to provide additional protection to people across the state and country.”
The growing number of people with diminished vaccine protection comes amid the second wave of omicron, spawned by derivatives of the original omicron that swept through the population in a matter of weeks in early 2022.
Derivatives have been shown to be less likely to cause hospitalizations and deaths.
As the total number of cases declined through February and April, the percentage of cases among those vaccinated began to rise. The baseline was between 20% and 25%, but:
• 56% of cases for the 35 days ending April 11.
• 37% of hospitalizations for the same period.
• 47% of deaths in February.
It is unclear why the death data is not more up to date.
In Berks County, nearly 2 out of 3 residents are considered fully vaccinated, but vaccination statistics have been dominated in the past five weeks by the second booster and fourth dose category for the immunocompromised.
Prior to that, going back to October, boosters and third injections were the most administered. However, the height of omicron’s thrust saw a rush on the first and second hits.
Many of those people would now be recall candidates.
“The reality is that in the United States, many people are eligible for a booster shot, but haven’t yet received one,” O’Neill said. “The department continues to strongly urge anyone who qualifies for a recall to get one as soon as possible. As the ministry has stated repeatedly over the past several months, the pandemic is not over and families should use all available resources to protect themselves, including getting up to date with their vaccines.
Also, people who die of any cause are not purged from vaccination lists. It’s unclear how high that number has become in 18 months of vaccinations.
Berks Weekly Update
The upward trend in COVID cases continued into week six in Berks County and across Pennsylvania in the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s latest Early Warning Surveillance Dashboard.
It was the biggest weekly increase yet in omicron’s second surge across Pennsylvania, with the state now averaging around 3,000 cases a day.
Berks remains well below state averages in key metrics, however, with the state push being dragged into some counties that were previously relatively safe havens.
Berks saw a nearly 50% jump in the infection rate to 77.4 cases per 100,000 population and a positivity rate of 10.8%, up more than 2 points in a week. The population is 429,000.
The state’s overall numbers are 128.9 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 13.9%.
Neighboring counties that previously performed well during the pandemic but are warming up are:
• Chester: 143.6 cases per 100,000 and 15.4%.
• Montgomery: 175.2 per 100,000 and 17.4%.
Chester has about 100,000 more residents than Berks, and Montgomery has almost double the population. Both were like Berks is now for most of the past year: below state averages.
Another county in the region contributing to the state figures is Luzerne with 215.2 and 18.2 percent, respectively.
Some of the statistics from this second omicron surge would have alarmed state health officials in the phases of the pandemic period. The pandemic has not been officially declared over.
Pennsylvania dropped daily updates on May 4 and moved to weekly updates to its main COVID dashboard and monthly news releases on cases, hospitalizations, deaths and vaccinations.
The most recent vaccination totals for Berks include:
• 246,490: Pfizer or Moderna two-dose treatment completed.
• 113,855: received at least one booster dose or an additional injection for immunocompromised people.
• 11,650: received a second booster or another additional dose for immunocompromised people.
The number of COVID deaths of Berks residents is 1,595, with 1,455 COVID deaths recorded in Berks.
Hundreds of Berks residents died outside the county, and lesser numbers of non-residents died in Berks. Exact numbers are no longer tracked.
The national image
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the third omicron derivative, known as BA.2.12.2, continued to gain traction. He was blamed for at least some of the slight increase in cases.
Nationally it is 46.2%, but in the mid-Atlantic it is 48.1%.
The second omicron derivative, BA.2, remains dominant at 56.4% nationally and 51.3% in the mid-Atlantic.
The original omicron and its first derivative nearly disappeared from existence.
Nationally, the seven-day case average has more than tripled since bottoming out after the initial omicron blitz, according to the CDC.
The latest seven-day average is 87,382 cases, according to the CDC. The 2022 low point in the seven-day average was 24,843 on March 29.
The current seven-day average is still less than 11% of the same average at the height of the omicron surge.
The unknown component continues to be the number of people tested at home who do not report results.