If you’re young, healthy and vaccinated, “you’re going to be in a pretty good place,” said Dr. William Schaffner, vaccine adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “You will be well protected.”
Figures from Northwell Health show that of nearly 2,000 people hospitalized there for Covid-19 in May, June and July, about 80% were over 60. Nearly 90% had an underlying health problem such as hypertension or diabetes.
Vaccination status was also critically important. The majority of hospitalized patients were not up to date with their Covid-19 vaccinations. Those who were current and still ended up in hospital were mostly over 65.
Dr. Jill Kallman, Northwell’s chief medical officer, noted that when Covid patients are hospitalized, they are doing much better than they once were.
“The mortality rate is very low now: it’s about 2%, and during the Delta it was about 10 to 12%,” she said. “And if they end up in the ICU, they don’t stay that long. In the first wave, we were seeing patients in the ICU for 15, 20, 30 days, and now it’s a fraction of that.”
CNN shared the data with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who said it matched her recent statements that “we’re in a much better place than we were.”
She added that national data from April to June showed that hospitalizations were about four times higher among people over 50 compared to younger adults.
CDC to tailor messages to specific groups
For other measures, the CDC is expected to tailor guidelines to high-risk groups more than earlier in the pandemic.
Advice on screening tests for Covid-19 also varies by group. The CDC document obtained by CNN indicates that the agency will not recommend it for most facilities, but will recommend that it may be useful in high-risk gathering places, such as nursing homes.
Schaffner, a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, says that at this point in the pandemic, it makes sense to tailor messaging more.
“When a patient or someone in the community asks me for advice about Covid, the first thing I always say is ‘Who are you? What is your vaccination history? How old are you? What are your main co-morbidities? Are you caring for someone in a high-risk group?” he said.
Age and vaccination status predict your chance of being hospitalized with Covid-19
Northwell’s data looked at 1,961 patients at 21 hospitals from May 1 to July 31. The data includes people who were admitted because they had Covid, not patients who were admitted for other reasons and then tested positive for the virus.
Of these hospital patients, 66% were over 70 years of age, 15% were over 60 years of age, and 8% were over 50 years of age.
Across all ages, 89% of patients had an underlying health problem such as hypertension, diabetes, or coronary artery disease.
Of all patients hospitalized for Covid, 47% had not had a single Covid vaccine, 21% had only one or two vaccines, and 32% were fully vaccinated and boosted. Among the latter group, 78% were 65 or older.
Schaffner noted that for the group who ended up in hospital with Covid-19 despite being up-to-date on their vaccines, it would be important to know how long it had been since their last booster, as the efficacy of mRNA vaccines decreases over time .
“These data show that people who are older and have co-morbidities should be very careful about their vaccination status and that if they go indoors or participate in group activities they should wear their masks,” he said.
In general, although young, healthy, vaccinated, and fortified people are generally spared hospitalization, some end up in the hospital, and others get sick enough to be out of work or school for long periods of time.
CDC has ‘challenging’ data problems
The Northwell data are in some ways more useful than the national CDC data because they can link hospital patients to their vaccination status.
“The statistics from Northwell are able to give us a more granular sense of data, some of which we can’t necessarily intersect with the national data that we have access to at the CDC,” Walensky told CNN.
Walenski called for improvements to the data states send to the CDC.
“We really needed to bring our data into the 21st century and get us to a place where our systems are talking to each other,” she said. “These data problems are really challenging.”
CNN’s Daniel Herman and Brenda Goodman contributed to this report.