Among New Jerseyans immunized against the coronavirus, COVID-19-related hospitalizations have remained rare, but the larger risks to unvaccinated individuals became clear Tuesday with the release of new hospital data.

Unvaccinated people are nearly six times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than those who have received their full complement of shots, according to an analysis of acute care data from late August by the New Jersey Hospital Association. Nearly three out of four COVID-19 patients treated during those two weeks were not inoculated against the virus, the association found.

“The data confirms once again: Vaccination is the strongest weapon we have to protect against serious COVID illness and hospitalization,” NJHA president and CEO Cathy Bennett said in a statement that accompanied the findings. More than 5.6 million New Jerseyans have been immunized against the disease, but some communities remain under-protected, and the number of new COVID-19 diagnoses has been ticking up since early July.

Data released in late August by the state Department of Health showed that while cases overall are rising, the percentage of breakthrough cases — or COVID-19 diagnoses among those who are vaccinated — had remained steady, at fewer than one in five. For COVID-19 hospitalizations, figures showed immunized New Jerseyans comprised just 1.8% of the patients treated during the first week of August and 4% of all COVID-19–related admissions since mid-January.

Hospitals in New Jersey began to report additional information about the vaccination status of their COVID-19 patients on Aug. 16, via a data portal the hospital association established during the pandemic. Of the 992 people admitted for COVID-19 treatment through Aug. 31, 265 were vaccinated and 727 had not received any shots, NJHA said.

This resulted in a hospitalization rate of 4.33 per 100,000 residents for fully vaccinated New Jerseyans, according to the NJHA analysis, and 26.33 per 100,000 for those who are not vaccinated. “All told, the unvaccinated are nearly 6 times more vulnerable to serious COVID illness that lands them in a hospital bed,” the association said.

— Graphics by Genesis Obando

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