Thirty-five fully vaccinated people have now died in NSW’s Delta outbreak, with three fully vaccinated patients among the seven deaths recorded yesterday.
While that’s about 11 per cent of the total 316 deaths since this outbreak began, experts say other risk factors are also at play — including age and underlying health issues.
Tony Cunningham, director of the Centre for Virus Research at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, said the numbers did not tell the full story.
“In the trials, of course, we know these vaccines are around about 97 per cent effective against deaths,” he said.
“This is in essence, that very small percentage of people who are not protected by the vaccine.”
Professor Cunningham said the vaccinated patients most at risk of dying were immunocompromised or in the oldest age groups.
NSW Health does not always publish the details of whether someone who dies with COVID-19 had underlying health conditions.
The most recent detailed breakdown of NSW Health data available shows that up until September 11, 21 people died who were fully vaccinated.
Twenty of those people were aged 70 or more.
Since then daily figures show a further 14 fully vaccinated people have died.
Seven had underlying health conditions, while the other seven were not specified.
Professor Cunningham said people undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, or taking immunosuppressive drugs after a transplant, could have a compromised immune response to the vaccine.
“Only about 55 per cent of people who are immunocompromised will develop adequate antibody levels after immunisation and that may require a third boost to get about another 25 per cent up [to adequate levels],” he said.
While NSW Health does not provide details on the specific conditions of patients who have died, a majority have had underlying health conditions, often serious.
Professor Cunningham said research had shown that people aged over 80 had a 20 fold increased risk of dying from COVID.
People who are fully vaccinated are 70 to 95 per cent less likely to get sick from COVID compared with the unvaccinated, according to NSW Health.
However, they noted that a small proportion of the fully vaccinated may still get the disease.
“As the proportion of the population who are vaccinated increases, the numbers of cases who are fully vaccinated will increase but this does not mean the vaccines are not working,” the NSW Health weekly surveillance report notes.
Analysis of cases and hospitalisations in NSW up to September 11 showed that fully vaccinated people were far less likely to be infected with COVID-19 than those who were partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all.
About 1,400 — or 4 per cent — of the people who contracted COVID in NSW between March 1 and September 11 this year were fully vaccinated.
About 15 per cent of positive COVID cases (5,896 people) have been hospitalised since June 16 and 4 per cent of those (222) were fully vaccinated.
Three quarters of people in hospital with COVID were not vaccinated or had only received one dose.
Being fully vaccinated was also highly protective against ending up in intensive care.
Just nine of the 472 people who were in ICU were fully vaccinated.
While detailing the COVID deaths on Tuesday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said people were “kidding themselves” if they thought they did not need to get vaccinated, warning that anyone could end up in a hospital ICU or die.
“It may be you that passes on the virus to your family or your friends and sees the responsibility then fall upon your shoulders for the death of one of your close friends or family,” he said.
[Click through to send us your questions about COVID-19]Internet Explorer Channel Network