Dr. James Jarvis, who leads Northern Light Health's COVID-19 response, listens to speakers at a Bangor School Committee meeting on a mask requirement for schools on Aug. 18, 2021. Credit: BDN file photo

New data from one of Maine’s large hospital systems highlight how few vaccinated people are among its COVID-19 patient load. The data also show that even when vaccinated patients require hospital treatment, they’re less likely to need intensive care.

Only three of the 47 people hospitalized in nine of Northern Light Health’s 10 hospitals for COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning were vaccinated, meaning that 94 percent of the hospitalizations were in unvaccinated people.

In addition, only one of the 26 COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit was vaccinated. None of the nine patients on ventilators had been inoculated.

Data from Mayo Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, which had three patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, were not included. 

Courtesy of Northern Light Health

As coronavirus cases surge across the state due to the delta variant, the numbers show the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine in preventing hospitalization and severe health effects. The numbers could also show the potential health effects from contracting the virus for the hundreds of thousands of eligible Mainers continuing to resist the vaccination, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to rise statewide.

Dr. James Jarvis, COVID-19 senior physician executive with Northern Light, said the hospital system was releasing the numbers to help reduce vaccine hesitancy. The system plans to share updated graphics over social media every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Some skeptics have falsely pointed to the ability of vaccinated people to get infected as evidence that the vaccine wasn’t effective.

“Vaccines alone won’t prevent all infections or eliminate the virus. That has never been the goal of vaccination,” Jarvis said. “The goal is to prevent severe hospitalizations or deaths.”

There had been a little over 1,800 documented coronavirus cases among fully vaccinated people in Maine as of Aug. 27, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data. Of those cases, 89 have resulted in associated hospitalizations and 29 in deaths.

That is a small percentage of the 845,719 people who were fully vaccinated in the state as of Tuesday — about 0.2 percent.

But about 453,000 have yet to get the shot, including about 160,000 children under 12 who are not yet eligible, according to Maine CDC data.

There’s no doubt that Maine’s unvaccinated people are driving the increase in cases across the state, Jarvis said.