TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Data released by the Tompkins County Health Department shows the vast differences, in most cases, of severe outcomes between people who are vaccinated and unvaccinated for COVID-19 when someone does catch the coronavirus.

Data collected by the health department starting on Aug. 1, and presented Tuesday to the Tompkins County Legislature, shows that of the 65 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 44 of them were unvaccinated while 21 were vaccinated. Additionally, among the 44 people who were unvaccinated and hospitalized, their average age was 55.7 years old; among the 21 who were vaccinated, the average age was 77.1 years old.

“I’d point out that the majority of our hospitalizations are unvaccinated individuals, so that 55.7 has a good chunk of data associated with it, it’s not just a couple of outliers,” Kruppa said. “It’s telling us what we already knew, that particularly for younger individuals that might have less likelihood of having underlying health conditions, being unvaccinated creates a significant risk of needing hospitalization related to COVID.”

Kruppa said last month that the more accurate metric to gauge the COVID-19 pandemic at this point is severity of infections rather than rate of infections—in other words, how many people become sick enough to be hospitalized as opposed to how many people test positive.

More hospitalization data came in the health department’s most sweeping revelations on severe outcomes in recent memory. Of those 65 people hospitalized: two were children (some of whom are ineligible to receive the vaccine based on age, though specific ages were not provided), and another 10 were between the ages of 20-39, all of whom were unvaccinated. The age group with the largest number of hospitalizations was aged 50-59, with 13 people taken to the hospital due to COVID-19—11 of them were unvaccinated. The three people who died from COVID during that time period were all vaccinated, though they were also elderly, as the health department has said.

Legislator Martha Robertson mentioned what these numbers mean for the overall effectiveness of the vaccines and how that is playing out locally. She posited that the numbers further illustrate the vaccine’s impact, especially considering how high the vaccination rate is in Tompkins County.

“When I look at the numbers of hospitalizations, 44 in the hospital who were not vaccinated, 21 who were vaccinated, from the percentages, 21 out of 75,000 [roughly 0.028 percent] is a lot less than 44 out of 20,000 [roughly 0.22 percent],” she said, with Kruppa agreeing. “It’s more evidence that it really, really makes a difference.”

Perhaps more relevantly, though, is this number: since Aug. 6, of the 1,040 vaccinated people who tested positive for COVID-19 (many of them from Cornell University), 21 ended up hospitalized—a rate of 2 percent. During that same time frame, 572 unvaccinated people tested positive, with 44 being hospitalized—a rate of 7.6 percent.

The numbers between unvaccinated and vaccinated only begin to even out once the population category is over 70 years old.

As for the advancement of actual vaccination administration, it remains fairly slow but still steady. The profession-based mandates that have been enacted by both the federal and state governments have helped boost numbers a bit over the last several weeks, but the county is still sitting at just over 70 percent.

“It’s incremental growth in our vaccination status but everyone vaccinated is a plus,” Kruppa said.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com