RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The numbers add up: You’re better off getting the COVID-19 vaccine than not getting it.
And state leaders have figures that show just how much better off you are.
Unvaccinated people in North Carolina are four times more likely to catch COVID and more than 15 times more likely to die from it, according to numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“What we know is that (vaccines) are effective to prevent severe disease, hospitalizations and death,” said Dr. Sudha Raman, an assistant professor of Population Health Sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine.
Those numbers seem a bit more reliable than a blanket figure tossed out earlier this week by The New York Times, which reported that the odds of average vaccinated American developing a breakthrough case of COVID are 1 in 5,000 each day.
But there’s a danger in those broad 1-in-X-number figures that offer little nuance: They generally don’t account for age or any other factor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, has estimated that people in the U.S. over 85 are 600 times more likely to die of COVID-related illnesses than those between 18 and 29.
And in North Carolina, 1 in 125 vaccinated people have developed breakthrough infections from Jan. 1 through late August, DHHS data show.
“I looked at that number, and then looked at what seems like a much bigger number in North Carolina, and I wasn’t able to find out exactly what the differences were, but I suspect there’s a couple different drivers,” Raman said. “We don’t know exactly what the age distribution is of the groups that they were talking about versus the groups in North Carolina, and if there’s a high percentage of those in lower-risk groups, as opposed to older adults, maybe that would tip the balance to make it look different.
“And the other thing as well, it really matters who’s getting tested and how much testing is going on,” she added.
DHHS publishes a breakdown each week of two key numbers — each adjusted for age — that help you measure your risk.
The respiratory surveillance report includes the rates of attack and mortality, with the ratios of those figures between the fully vaccinated and the unvaccinated putting a tangible number on just how much greater your risk is of not getting the shots.
It finds the attack rate — the number of cases occurring in a group of people over a time period — to be 557 for every 100,000 unvaccinated people as opposed to 137 for the vaccinated.
The mortality rate is 5 cases for every 100,000 people for the unvaccinated compared to 0.33 for the vaccinated. Dividing those numbers yields ratios of 4.1 for the attack rate and 15.02 for the mortality rate, meaning the unvaccinated are four times more likely to catch COVID and 15 times more likely to die from it.
And one important thing to remember — even as the number of breakthrough cases climbs, by roughly 1,000 each day over the past two weeks, it still only represents a fraction of the total number of cases, and more importantly, less than 1 percent of everyone who has been fully vaccinated.
“Regardless of whether we’re talking about 1 in 5,000, or 6 out of 1,000, we’re still only talking about a small portion of those who are affected,” Raman said.