The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus pushed U.S. hospitalizations to a pandemic peak of about 161,000 cases a day in mid-January, but that number would be much lower if the U.S. had the same vaccination rate as many European countries — 91,000 hospitalizations with Denmark's numbers, 100,000 with Britain's, and 109,000 with Portugal's vaccination rates, according to a Financial Times analysis unveiled Monday.
"Across the seven months since July, spanning the Delta and Omicron waves, U.S. daily patient numbers would have averaged 39,000 — rather than the 80,000 recorded — had its vaccination coverage tracked that of Portugal," Oliver Barnes, John Burn-Murdoch, and Jamie Smyth report in the Financial Times.
The U.S. got off to a faster start with vaccinations than European nations, but then the U.S. rates stalled and Europe pulled ahead. The U.S. has fallen even farther behind when it comes to booster shots, a key tool against the Omicron variant. President Biden "is right when he says we're facing a pandemic of the unvaccinated — but it's also now becoming a pandemic of the unboosted," said Peter Hotez at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine. He added that opposition to vaccination is the "leading killer" of middle-aged Americans and is "perpetuating the pandemic emergency state unnecessarily."
The Financial Times graphed the case fatality rate (CFR) in the U.S. versus more widely vaccinated European nations.
New data published Friday by France's directorate of research highlighted the importance of booster shots, finding that two doses of vaccine make an infected 70-year-old less likely to end up in the ICU than an unvaccinated 40-year-old, and that risk drops further after a booster shot.
"The truth is that an 80-year-old that's vaccinated and boosted and gets COVID most of the time has nothing more than a cold," Phillip Coule, professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, tells the Financial Times, while "a healthy 50-year-old who's a little bit overweight, has problems with blood pressure or diabetes, and is not vaccinated at all ends up in the ICU." Read more, including the newspaper's methodology, at the Financial Times.