The fact that about one-third of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are fully vaccinated shouldn’t sway Mainers’ confidence in the vaccines, Maine health officials said Wednesday. Data shows unvaccinated people are 12 times more likely to wind up in the hospital and 11 times more likely to die from the virus compared to vaccinated individuals, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

While that one-third number is alarming, “the number is not the thing to focus on,” especially when considering it is more so a function of the high number of vaccinated people in Maine than it is of the vaccine’s effectiveness.

“It has to do with what’s called the base rate effect,” Shah said at a media briefing Wednesday, which in this instance is a matter of the risk of hospitalization for unvaccinated people compared to fully vaccinated people.

“And right now, across the country, your likelihood of landing in the hospital with COVID-19 is 12 times higher if you are unvaccinated than if you are vaccinated,” according to U.S. CDC data, Shah said.

The data also says that the risk of death from COVID-19 is 11 times greater for unvaccinated people compared to vaccinated people. And the risk of testing positive for the virus is six times greater.

But Shah acknowledged that the one-third statistic could raise some questions: “How could it be that one out of every three people in the hospital in Maine with COVID-19 has gotten their shots?”


“Well, part of the reason — in fact almost all of the reason — is that Maine has a lot of folks who are in fact fully vaccinated and a small sliver of them will experience breakthrough cases. And a smaller sliver of them will unfortunately need to be hospitalized,” he said.

And, those fully vaccinated individuals in the hospital tend to be older or have chronic medical conditions, “all of which makes them at an even higher risk of hospitalization if they happen to get COVID,” Shah said.

According to Maine CDC data, there were 348 hospitalizations among the 948,602 Mainers who were fully vaccinated as of Nov. 12. That’s a hospitalization rate of 0.04%, or four out of every 10,000 vaccinated people.

Even though hospitalization after being fully vaccinated is rare, “when you apply it to the fact that we have so many people who are vaccinated, numerically, it looks far larger,” Shah said.

Shah’s comments came as Maine, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, smashed the single-day records for new cases and hospitalizations.

On Wednesday, state health officials reported 1,042 new cases statewide, the highest single-day record. There were 148 new cases in Androscoggin County, also a single-day record, 71 cases in Franklin County and 45 cases in Oxford County. There were no new deaths.

There were 280 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday, which broke the previous record set the day before. There were 77 people in critical care and 36 on a ventilator.

When asked what tools are left to combat the virus, Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew answered, “but we have the tool, we have a vaccine.”

“We have a safe and effective vaccine (that is) unlike many of our vaccines in terms of the impact it has on keeping people out of hospitals, out of critical care,” she said.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.