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Unvaccinated Alabamians make up majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19

There were 92 more patients needing ICU bed care than the state’s hospitals had formal ICU beds on Sunday.

MONTGOMERY, Ala — The vast majority of Alabamians hospitalized with COVID-19, being cared for in ICU’s and hooked to ventilators are unvaccinated. State hospitals on Sunday had a negative 92 ICU beds, and more than half of the beds occupied were COVID-19 patients. 

Of the 2,713 people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide on Sunday, 84 percent were unvaccinated, according to the Alabama Hospital Association. 

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At UAB Hospital in Birmingham on Friday, 134 of 149 COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated, or 89 percent. Of those patients who needed ICU care, 91 percent were unvaccinated, and the same percentage of the 49 COVID patients hooked to ventilators on Friday were unvaccinated. 

State hospitals had a negative 92 ICU beds on Sunday, according to the Alabama Hospital Association, meaning there were 92 more patients needing ICU bed care than the state’s hospitals had formal ICU beds. While some hospitals had available ICU beds to care for the critically ill, others had patients awaiting that care. More than half of the state’s 1,618 ICU patients on Sunday had COVID-19. 

East Alabama Health, which operates hospitals in Opelika and Valley, on Friday was just one COVID-19 patient shy of the hospital system’s record, set in January. The two hospitals’ combined number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators reached a new high of 23 on Thursday. East Alabama Health on Friday had seven fewer ICU beds than patients needing those beds. 

“And the numbers would be even higher, but COVID has claimed the lives of 26 patients since August 1,” the system said in a statement Friday. 

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Those 26 COVID-19 patients who died since Aug. 1 are just shy of the 28 patients who died of COVID at East Alabama Health’s hospitals over the span of five months, from March 1 through July 31.

Of the 91 COVID-19 patients hospitalized at East Alabama Health hospitals on Friday, 80 percent were unvaccinated. of those patients on ventilators, 81 percent were unvaccinated. 

“We are doing everything we can to save every life that comes through our doors, and I mean everything,” Dr. Meshia Wallace, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at East Alabama Health, said in a statement. “Patients are on the ventilator, paralyzed, in a prone position, getting high doses of steroids, interleukin inhibitors, antivirals, dialysis…as I said, we’re doing everything.”

“Seeing patients, including a new mom, fight for their lives on a ventilator is excruciating,” Wallace said. “Especially when it’s extremely clear now after eight months that the vaccines are safe and effective at keeping the vast majority of people out of the hospital and limiting critical care and deaths. This peak was very avoidable. It’s sad to watch so many people suffer.”  

This story originally appeared in the Alabama Political Reporter.

WATCH: Alabama continues to struggle with lack of ICU beds in hospitals