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Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in Tennessee are among the unvaccinated

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 4:41 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Get vaccinated or eventually become infected.

That’s the warning from Tennessee’s health commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey, as state leaders try to persuade vaccine holdouts to roll up their sleeves.

Piercey says just like the national trend, the people getting infected and dying from COVID-19 in Tennessee are almost all unvaccinated.

“There really are only two choices,” said Piercey. “You will either become vaccinated or you will eventually become infected. It’s very, very unlikely that you will go for a long period of time without one or the other.”

Though the state has reopened, Piercey says Tennessee is in a race against time trying to vaccinate as many people as possible before the highly transmissible Delta variant becomes widespread across the state.

Right now, only 38 percent of the state’s population is fully vaccinated.

“What we know is that people who are being hospitalized and who are dying right now are almost universally unvaccinated,” said Piercey. “But those who are vaccinated seem to have really good protection against all of the variants, including the Delta variant.”

The state is reporting on average just over 100 new cases a day.

Despite concerns about Delta, hospitalizations have remained flat for the last few weeks in Tennessee, including in some lower-vaccinated areas.

Piercey says it has to do with natural immunity that people who’ve already been infected built up.

“That’s why you’re not seeing surges in those areas right now because their vaccination rates might be low, but their natural immunity from a previous infection is still high,” said Piercey. “What we don’t know is how consistent that is or how long that will last, so we encourage people who have been infected to eventually get vaccinated.”

Piercey says even if the state sees a spike in cases because of Delta, that doesn’t mean hospitalizations will increase. She says it all depends on who gets infected and whether they’ve been vaccinated or not.

“Vaccination is the number one thing we can do to protect ourselves against the Delta variant,” Piercey said.

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