CDC: Vaccinations beat getting COVID-19 for building immunity

18 more Utahns die, and ICUs at the state’s big medical centers are at 101.4% of capacity.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Colton Shakespear administers a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru event organized by the Utah County Health Department in Spanish Fork on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune is providing free access to critical stories about the coronavirus. Sign up for our Top Stories newsletter, sent to your inbox every morning. To support journalism like this, please donate or become a subscriber.

Getting vaccinated offers more than five times the protection against COVID-19 as catching and recovering from the virus, according to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study examined more than 7,000 people in nine states who were hospitalized with “COVID-like illness” and found that those who had a previous case of the coronavirus but remained unvaccinated were five times more likely to be re-infected as those who were vaccinated but never caught the virus.

“We now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky. “The best way to stop COVID-19, including the emergence of variants, is with widespread COVID-19 vaccination,” along with “mask wearing, washing hands often, physical distancing, and staying home when sick.”

The study found that unvaccinated people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 3 to 6 months were 5.49 times more likely to have confirmed cases of the coronavirus than adults who had received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The CDC’s announcement came on a day when the Utah Department of Health reported 18 more COVID-19 deaths in the state. Seven of the victims reported Friday were under the age of 65 — one was 25-44, and six where 45-64.

Intensive care units at the state’s larger medical centers are above capacity — 101.4% of those ICU beds are filled, according to the health department. And 98.8% of all the ICU bed in the state are filled. Of all ICU patients, 39.6% are being treated for COVID-19.

The health department on Friday reported 1,810 new coronavirus cases. The rolling seven-day average for positive tests stands at 1,571 per day.

An additional 1,893 Utahns were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in the past day, bringing the total to 1,750,001 — 53.5% of Utah’s total population.

Vaccine doses administered in the past day/total doses administered • 12,856 / 3,731,272.

Utahns fully vaccinated • 1,750,001.

Cases reported in past day • 1,810.

Cases among school age children • Kids in grades K-12 accounted for 349 of the new cases announced Friday — 19.3% of the total. There were 176 cases reported in children aged 5-10; 80 cases in children 11-13; and 93 cases in children 14-18.

Tests reported in past day • 9,561 people were tested for the first time. A total of 19,208 people were tested.

Deaths reported in past day • 18.

There were four deaths in Salt Lake County: A man 45-64, two women 65-84, and a woman 85-plus. Washington County also reported four deaths: A man 25-44, a man 45-64, and a man and a woman 65-84.

Three Davis County residents died: A woman and two men, all 65-84. There were also three deaths in Utah County: Two women 45-64, and a man 65-84.

Other deaths were: A Box Elder County man 45-64, a Duchesne County man 65-84, a Uintah County man 45-64, and a Weber County woman 85-plus.

Hospitalizations reported in the past day • 535. That is one fewer than reported on Thursday. Of those currently hospitalized, 205 are in intensive care — two more than reported Thursday.

Percentage of positive tests • Under the state’s original method, the rate is 18.9% over the past day. That is higher than the seven-day average of 17.1%.

The state’s new method counts all test results, including repeated tests of the same individual. Friday’s rate was 9.4%, lower than the seven-day average of 11%.

[Read more: Utah is changing how it measures the rate of positive COVID-19 tests. Here’s what that means.]

Risk ratios • In the past four weeks, unvaccinated Utahns were 19 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to a UDOH analysis. The unvaccinated also were 10.8 times more likely to be hospitalized and 5.3 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus.

Totals to date • 549,882 cases; 3,208 deaths; 24,011 hospitalizations; 3,698,023 people tested.