Nearly all the COVID-19-related deaths in Philadelphia this year have been among people who were not vaccinated against the virus, the city’s top doctor said Wednesday.
Of the 1,184 Philadelphians who have died from COVID-19 in 2021, 98.2 % were unvaccinated, Philadelphia's acting health commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, said, stressing the importance and efficacy of vaccines. In addition, the unvaccinated make up 96.5% of coronavirus hospitalizations, as opposed to the only 3.5% of hospitalizations from so-called breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated, she said.
“The overall number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths has really dropped as more and more of us have gotten vaccinated,” Bettigole said, noting that the average number of daily new infections in Philadelphia as of Tuesday was 250 – down from the Sept. 4 high of 313. “I believe that our high vaccine rate is why we’re not seeing all of the cases, the overfilled hospitals and the deaths that other states with lower vaccine rates are seeing.”
Nearly 68% of adults in Philadelphia are fully vaccinated, while 82.6% have received at least one dose. Though breakthrough infections – which happen despite someone being fully vaccinated – do occur, they have made up less than 5% of all infections in the city since January, Bettigole said.
Get Philly local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Philadelphia newsletters.
She noted the importance of the vaccine in keeping not just individuals safe but also those around them safe, including children, some of whom are currently hospitalized with the virus.
There have been infections within Philadelphia schools since the return to in-person classes at the end of last month. However, most school-related cases have stemmed from infection outside the classroom, Bettigole said.
“There can be in-school spread and there has been some in-school spread. But this is one of those situations where the reason I keep harping on parents getting themselves vaccinated, getting their teenagers vaccinated, not sending kids to school if they’re sick, listening to nurses, all of this is because almost all the spread – not all the spread but most of it – is happening at home and then coming into the school that way,” she said.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
Currently, people aged 12 and older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Those looking to get immunized can find a nearby vaccine provider by using this tool.