Residents of Michigan’s lowest-vaccinated counties twice as likely to die of COVID-19, latest data shows –

The 10 Michigan counties with the lowest COVID-19 vaccinated rates now have a death rate twice that of the 10 best-vaccinated counties – and that gap has grown over time, an MLive analysis shows.

The analysis looked at Michigan’s 1,301 confirmed COVID-19 deaths that have occurred since Aug. 1 and reported to the state as of Wednesday, Oct. 6.

The average death rate was 16.9 deaths per 100,000 residents for the 10 counties with the lowest percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Those 10 counties: Hillsdale, Montcalm, Branch, Cass, Osceola, Oscoda, St. Joseph, Sanilac, Newaygo and Gratiot.

That compares to an average rate of 8.2 deaths per 100,000 residents in the 10 counties with the best vaccination rates: Oakland, Washtenaw, Grand Traverse, Marquette, Leelanau, Mackinac, Emmet, Chippewa, Ontonogan and Menominee.

The statewide death rate was 12.9 during that time.

“It’s not surprising” that counties with higher vaccination rates have a significantly lower death rate on average, said Josh Petrie, a University of Michigan epidemiologist. “And that’s just looking at a county level. If you were looking at an individual level, you’d see an even bigger effect of the vaccines.”

Unvaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely to die of COVID compared to those who are fully vaccinated, according to latest estimates from the federal Centers of Disease Control.

The gap between the two groups of counties has gotten bigger over time.

Looking at the 5,583 deaths since March 1, the 10 worst-vaccinated counties have a death rate of 59 deaths per 100,000 residents, 64% higher than the 36 deaths per 100,000 for the best-vaccinated counties. It’s 106% higher looking just at deaths since Aug. 1.

Currently, 59% of residents in the 10 top counties and 38% in the bottom 10 are fully vaccinated.

The differences in vaccination rates are even more pronounced for younger populations. Among those age 65 and older, an average of 86% are fully vaccinated in the 10 top counties compared to 71% in the 10 worst counties. Among those age 12 to 64, the average vaccination rates are 65% and 36% respectively.

Below is a map showing the percentage of residents in each county who were fully vaccinated of Oct. 6. (Can’t see the map? Click here.)

(The numbers used for this map include both state and federal data, which means they are a little different from the numbers reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services because the federal data also includes vaccinations via the Veterans Administration and Native American tribal health systems as well as Michigan residents vaccinated in another state.)

Next is a map showing the COVID-19 death rate since Aug. 1. (Can’t see the map? Click here.)

And here’s a map showing the COVID-19 case rate since Aug. 1. The case rate for the 10-worst vaccinated counties was 1,626 cases per 100,000 residents, 70% higher than the case rate of 957 for the best-vaccinated counties. The state average was 1,161. (Can’t see the map? Click here.)

COVID-19 vaccines have been seen as a huge success in limiting hospitalization and death among those who have received the shots.

Of Michigan’s 6,033 COVID-19 deaths between Jan. 15 and Sept. 28, only 488 have been people who were fully vaccinated.

Other data points that underscore the success of the COVID vaccines in preventing deaths:

  • During the first 12 months of the pandemic, Michigan reported 5,533 COVID-19 deaths among residents of long-term-care facilities. That compared to 228 deaths in the past seven months.
  • In Michigan’s prisons, another high-risk setting for COVID, deaths have dropped from 142 inmate deaths to 10 in comparing the first year of the pandemic to the past seven months.
  • COVID killed 7,251 Michigan residents age 80 and older between March 2020 and February 2021. Since March 1, there have been 1,622 deaths, a 62% drop in the daily average death rate.
  • Vaccines saved an estimated 1,400 lives of Michigan senior citizens, and prevented 3,900 hospitalizations and 8,500 cases for that age group between January and May, according to a federal study released Oct. 5.

Those numbers are particularly impressive considering the emergence of COVID-19 variants such as the Delta strain, which is much more contagious and appears to be more lethal.

During a deadly Delta surge this summer, Florida recorded more than 10,000 COVID deaths in August, more than double the state’s previous month record set in January.

In Michigan, while deaths so far have been declining for senior citizens – the age group most likely to be vaccinated – they’ve gone up for young adults and adolescents as a result of the variants.

From March 2020 through February 2021, 180 Michigan residents under age 40 died of COVID. That compares to 226 in the past seven months.

Read more on MLive:

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Michigan’s COVID-19 spread on the rise as U.S. begins to see relief

400 employees resign, while 99% comply with Henry Ford Health System’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Learning to live with COVID: When and how can fully vaccinated people get on with their lives?