If you want to avoid the ICU, get a COVID-19 shot, doctors say
New cases of COVID-19 totaled 165 Monday, the lowest since March 20, 2020, with nine more deaths from the respiratory disease, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported.
But as the state enjoyed a fourth day of relaxed pandemic restrictions, local doctors worry about the latest trend -- unvaccinated patients in the hospital with COVID-19.
"There are five people clinging to life in our ICU who did not get vaccinated," said Dr. Jeff Huml, medical director of critical care at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield. "The pandemic is definitely not over. Vaccination is the only way that we're going to close the door on this pandemic.
"What causes me grave concern is the number of individuals who consciously make the decision not to get vaccinated. What they have to realize is when they make that decision, they are potentially putting their life in jeopardy, the lives of their loved ones in jeopardy, and the lives of (others) they come into contact with in jeopardy.
With shots free, available and effective at preventing or decreasing chances of serious illness from COVID-19, Huml is perplexed that "intelligent, educated individuals are choosing not to get vaccinated. That troubles me greatly."
On Sunday, 22,124 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 40,341.
The federal government has delivered 13,990,325 doses of vaccine to Illinois since distribution began in mid-December, and 11,947,090 shots have been administered since vaccinations began in December. Nearly 69% of Illinois adults have received at least one dose.
At Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital's COVID-19 unit, "the vast, vast majority of patients are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated," Medical Director Dr. Michael Bauer said. "If you're fully vaccinated, the risk of you getting hospitalized with COVID is so slim in comparison."
Most COVID-19 patients at the Lake Forest Hospital are people in their 30s to 50s, Bauer said, noting elderly patients are no longer in the majority as they were before vaccines. One worrisome trend shows the rate of unvaccinated adolescents hospitalized for COVID-19 is higher now. "That's a bit alarming because these are generally healthy adolescents," Bauer said.
COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in individuals age 12 and older. So far, 5,763,139 people -- 45.3% of Illinois' 12.7 million population -- have been fully vaccinated. Vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses several weeks apart.
Illinois hospitals had 627 COVID-19 patients as of Sunday night.
Health care workers at Edward Hospital in Naperville were treating four COVID-19 patients, the fewest since March 2020. "I still think that even though the cases are down, that you should still get vaccinated to protect yourself from getting infected in the future," said Dr. Jonathan Pinsky, Edward Hospital's medical director of infection control and prevention. "We don't know what will happen during the fall and winter."
The state's seven-day case positivity rate is at 0.8%.
Total cases statewide stand at 1,387,760, and 23,070 Illinoisans have died since the pandemic began. Labs processed 25,883 virus tests in the last 24 hours.
Nationwide, unvaccinated people make up the bulk of people currently infected with COVID-19, said Advocate Aurora Health Executive Medical Director of Infectious Disease and Prevention Dr. Robert Citronberg. But he noted "it's important not to shame people who haven't gotten a vaccination," but to educate them about the risks.