A Tale Of Two Curves: Vaccination Reduces Hospitalizations For Missouri Seniors While Rate Of Hospitalization For Younger Missourians Increases
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — New research finds that COVID-19 hospitalization rates for Missourians ages 60 or older have dropped markedly since the state’s peak in December 2020, while rates of hospitalization for adults ages 59 or younger have increased. At the same time, vaccination among the 60-and-over population — targeted in early risk-based vaccination tiers — is more than three times the rate of Missourians ages 59 and younger.
“Vaccination appears to be shifting the dynamic in the fight against COVID-19,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA President and CEO. “Age is among the most powerful predictors of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The significant emphasis on vaccinating older Missourians seems to be resulting in reduced hospitalization among this high-risk population.”
Between Dec. 14, 2020, and March 28, 2021, Missourians ages 60 and older received an average of 87.2 doses of state-managed COVID-19 vaccine doses per 100 residents. During this same period, the daily hospitalization rate for Missourians ages 60 and older shrank 15.3%. Conversely, younger Missourians have received just under 28 of the state’s doses per 100 residents, while the portion of new hospitalizations among their cohort increased by 32.1% during the same period.
“Although this risk-based vaccination approach appears to be working, it is too early to let our guard down,” Kuhn said. “This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all Americans to ‘hold on a little while longer’ to reduce the chance of a fourth COVID-19 surge. Missouri’s COVID-19 primary indicators have been trending down, but various factors — including travel, reduced use of precautions such as masking and distancing, the Easter holiday, and more infectious variants — could slow or reverse our progress as a state.”
Vaccination rates are accelerating as Missouri’s supply increases. Presently, demand remains strong in areas of the state. However, through March 30, only 15.2% of Missourians were fully vaccinated while 25.2% have initiated their vaccination. Herd immunity may require vaccination of as much as 80% of the state’s population. As the vaccine supply begins to meet and exceed demand, vaccine hesitancy will begin to influence whether Missouri can meet such a high herd immunity target.
“The evidence is showing us that vaccines are working. It is essential that we move Missourians from the ‘wait and see how it is working’ category to the ‘get it right away’ category,” Kuhn said. “In the interim, the same public health protections Missourians have been using to reduce the spread of the virus will remain the best tools to avoid infection — masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene.
“The age shift downward in hospitalizations is good news. Seniors were among the most hard-hit throughout the pandemic and had among the highest rates of interest in getting vaccinated as soon as possible. Younger Missourians have experienced better COVID-19 outcomes, whether hospitalized or not. However, the body of knowledge about the long-term damage caused by the illness is small, and immunization and avoiding infection are powerful tools to hedge against harm, regardless of age.”
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The Missouri Hospital Association is a not-for-profit association in Jefferson City that represents 140 Missouri hospitals. In addition to representation and advocacy on behalf of its membership, the association offers continuing education programs on current health care topics and seeks to educate the public about health care issues.