Majority of people in Sask. hospitals with COVID-19 unvaccinated or recently vaccinated: health authority

Of the 191 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in May, 155 were unvaccinated or had only recently received their first dose, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer said Tuesday.

Of 5,296 cases in May, 91.9% were people who were unvaccinated or vaccinated less than 3 weeks earlier

Numbers from the Saskatchewan Health Authority show the large majority of people who contracted COVID-19 or were hospitalized with the illness last month were either unvaccinated, or their vaccine hadn't had time to become fully effective. (Mikaela MacKenzie/The Canadian Press)

More than 100 people are currently in hospital with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan — but one intensive care specialist says he hasn't seen any fully vaccinated people hospitalized with the illness.

"This is very profound — we're not seeing anyone land in the hospital here in Saskatchewan with those vaccinations," said Dr. Hassan Masri.

Masri says hospitalization numbers are better now than at the peak of the second and third waves of the COVID-19 pandemic and are slowly decreasing. That's thanks to the people of Saskatchewan getting vaccinated, he says.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said data from May shows vaccinations are affecting hospitalizations and cases.

Of Saskatchewan's 5,296 reported COVID-19 cases in May, 91.9 per cent involved people who were unvaccinated or whose vaccine hadn't kicked in yet. 

The majority of new cases were unvaccinated or recently vaccinated people. Vaccinated people only made up 8.1 per cent of new cases. (Alex Soloduca/CBC)

Similarly, of the 191 people hospitalized in May, 155 were unvaccinated or had received their first dose less than three weeks earlier. The same was true of 40 of the 46 people in intensive care last month. Six people who were in ICU had received their first dose at least three weeks earlier.

In May, 28 people in the province died from COVID-19. Of those, 21 were unvaccinated or had only recently received their first dose.

Seven were vaccinated with their first dose at least three weeks earlier. The province said all of those people were age 60 or older and almost all had other medical conditions. 

A total of 191 people were admitted to hospital in May. The majority were unvaccinated or recently vaccinated. (Alex Soloduca/CBC)

There's growing evidence that fully vaccinated people are well protected against both severe COVID-19 symptoms and against spreading the virus that causes the illness, says Masri.

If anyone who has been vaccinated does become sick, it's likely they were exposed to COVID-19 before their first dose of the vaccine took effect, which requires two to three weeks, he says.

"It's important to know that the vaccine is not an instantaneous switch," Masri said. "If someone is exposed to COVID-19 within those two to three weeks then they very well might land in the hospital or, if things are worse, they may land in the ICU."

That means it's important to understand that people can't ignore public health orders as soon as they get their shot, Masri says.

Forty-six people were admitted into the ICU in May. Six were vaccinated, while 40 were unvaccinated or recently vaccinated. (Alex Soloduca/CBC)

Death of young person reminder to be diligent: doctor

However, the recent death of a person under the age of 20 should be a reminder that the pandemic isn't over, Masri said. 

"It does not discriminate between male and female. It does not discriminate between young and old," Masri said. "We have so much evidence to suggest that people who are young could still get really sick, could still be on life support and could die, and we've seen that."

A majority of people who died in May were unvaccinated. Seven were vaccinated. (Alex Soloduca/CBC)

That means for now, people should keep wearing masks, washing their hands and avoiding large gatherings, and should get tested if they're concerned, Masri said. 

"We're almost at the end of this tunnel and there's a lot of light at the end of it. But we just need to continue the last few miles and then hopefully we can put this behind us."