by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
In February, over half of new Covid-19 cases in North Carolina were to fully vaccinated individuals, according to official state data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Furthermore, fully vaccinated individuals accounted for nearly half of Covid deaths (deaths attributed either from or with Covid-19).
These data are based on official state data as given on March 10, 2022. These numbers are in flux as DHHS officials make constant revisions to their data, but the trends should be fairly stable.
Here are those data sources discussed here:
Here are the numbers concerning new lab-confirmed cases covering the period from Jan. 29–Feb. 26 as of March 10, 2022. In addition to cases to fully vaccinated* individuals, DHHS also reports reinfections — but only on the bar graph of total cases, day by day, here (and those numbers are subject to fluctuation as well). They are not made available for download, however. A reinfection is a lab-confirmed case to a not fully vaccinated* individual who had previously recovered from a lab-confirmed case.
So nearly 56% of new cases in February came to fully vaccinated individuals.
*Caveat: DHHS defines someone as “unvaccinated” if the person has received only one of two injections or if the person is within two weeks of receiving the second injection. So some unknown proportion of cases has occurred to people considered unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated who are in definitional limbo somewhere between the first injection and 13 days after receiving the second one.
This category comes with a big caveat, because DHHS continues to lump deaths with Covid-19 in with deaths from Covid-19 the same as it does with hospitalizations. Especially after two years, it is inexcusable not to have separated out these populations given the major health as well as policy implications at stake. Great uncertainty in these data may promote great overreaction by media and a fearful public and great overreach by the governor and public health officials, but it limits what conclusions a conscientious researcher can draw. Put simply, the official statistic is a mess.
That said, here are the numbers we have from DHHS covering the period from Jan. 29–Feb. 26 as of March 10, 2022. DHHS does not appear to report deaths from reinfections (and the number of deaths from unvaccinated to not fully vaccinated* individuals must be inferred from the difference between total Covid-19 deaths and Covid-19 deaths to fully vaccinated* individuals):
A trend to monitor: Since Covid deaths lag cases by several days to weeks, a look at the last two weeks of data reveals that the majority of Covid deaths occurred to fully vaccinated individuals. There were 22,305 Covid-19 deaths by Feb. 12, so in that period from Feb. 12–26, there were 446 Covid-19 deaths, 294 of which were to fully vaccinated individuals. That’s 65.9%, almost two out of every three.
*Another caveat: Not only does DHHS define someone as “unvaccinated” if the person has received only one of two injections or if the person is within two weeks of receiving the second injection, but also with respect to hospitalization and perhaps deaths as well, “Patients are counted as vaccinated if they provide proof of vaccination or if their vaccination status can be verified through North Carolina’s Covid-19 Vaccination Management System (CVMS). Patients who are not vaccinated, partially vaccinated, cannot provide proof of vaccine or whose vaccination status cannot be confirmed in CVMS are categorized as unvaccinated.” (Emphasis added.)
If fully vaccinated people comprise the majority of cases in this state as well as the majority of Covid-related deaths, then how can the governor distinguish between theoretical risks from the unvaccinated and the fully vaccinated?
Gov. Roy Cooper continues to order — not recommend — Cabinet employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or be subjected to weekly testing or fired. The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employers was blocked by the Supreme Court as an emergency temporary standard, but it is still a proposed rule. Neither Cooper nor Biden account for natural immunity from prior infection, which is also inexcusable.
Official state data continue to bear out the fact — attested to by 150 research studies and counting — that natural immunity from prior Covid-19 infection is at least as strong as and likely much stronger than vaccine-induced protection. As of the end of February, the reinfection rate for unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals who had recovered from a prior infection was only 3.4%, but the post-vaccination infection rate for fully vaccinated people was 8.8%. There had been 87,442 reinfections and 539,301 post-vaccination infections.
Cooper’s rationale for mandating the vaccine is given in, among other sources, his most recent Executive Order on the subject, and it is this:
unvaccinated people pose a risk not only to themselves, but to people who are immunocompromised and to children who are too young to be vaccinated
If fully vaccinated people comprise the majority of cases in this state as well as the majority of Covid-related deaths, then how can he distinguish between theoretical risks from the unvaccinated and the fully vaccinated? There can be no basis for the governor’s declaration even on its own merits. Cooper should cease his vaccine mandate and do what he always should have done: leave private medical decisions to individuals.