COVID No Longer 'Pandemic of the Unvaccinated'

Lisa O'Mary

November 28, 2022

For the first time, the majority of people dying from COVID-19 in America have been vaccinated.

"We can no longer say this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President Cynthia Cox, who conducted the analysis, told The Washington Post .

People who had been vaccinated or boosted made up 58% of COVID-19 deaths in August, the analysis showed. The rate has been on the rise: 23% of coronavirus deaths were among vaccinated people in September 2021, and the vaccinated made up 42% of deaths in January and February of this year, the Post reported.

Research continues to show that people who are vaccinated or boosted have a lower risk of death. The rise in deaths among the vaccinated is the result of three factors, Cox said. They are:

  • A large majority of people in the U.S. have been vaccinated (267 million people in the U.S., the CDC says).

  • People who are at the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19 are more likely to be vaccinated and boosted, such as the elderly.

  • Vaccines lose their effectiveness over time; the virus changes to avoid vaccines; and people need to choose to get boosters to continue to be protected.

The case for the effectiveness of vaccines and boosters versus skipping the shots remains strong. People age 6 months and older who are unvaccinated are six times more likely to die of COVID-19, compared to those who got the primary series of shots, the Post reported. Survival rates were even better with additional booster shots, particularly among older people.

"I feel very confident that if people continue to get vaccinated at good numbers, if people get boosted, we can absolutely have a very safe and healthy holiday season," Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus czar, said last week.

The number of Americans who have gotten the most recent booster has been increasing ahead of the holidays. CDC data show that 12% of the U.S. population age 5 and older has received a booster.

A new study by a team of researchers from Harvard University and Yale University estimates that 94% of the U.S. population has been infected with COVID-19 at least once, leaving just 1 in 20 people who have never had the virus.

"Despite these high exposure numbers, there is still substantial population susceptibility to infection with an Omicron variant," the authors wrote.

They said that if all states achieved the vaccination levels of Vermont, where 55% of people had at least one booster and 22% got a second one, there would be "an appreciable improvement in population immunity, with greater relative impact for protection against infection vs. severe disease. This additional protection results from both the recovery of immunity lost due to waning and the increased effectiveness of the bivalent booster against Omicron infections."


The Washington Post: "Covid is no longer mainly a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Here's why."

CDC: "COVID Data Tracker."

The White House: "Nov. 22, 2022 Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, COVID-⁠19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, and Chief Medial Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci

MedRxiv: "Changes in population immunity against infection and severe disease from SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variants in the United States between December 2021 and November 2022."


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.