RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Duke Health said its hospital is filling up with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. With the spread of the omicron variant and colder weather drawing people in, the fear is that hospitalizations may only get worse.

Duke Health said the latest figures make it clear that vaccines are the strongest tool in protecting against severe infection. The hospital said:

  • 86% of people in the hospital are unvaccinnated
  • 96% in the ICU are unvaccinnated
  • 100% of those on ventilators are unvaccinnated

The CDC said its early reports show the omicron variant is more transmissible but could cause less severe disease. It currently accounts for 3 percent of cases.

On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the latest data showed the new strain kicked Pfizer’s ability to protect against infection from 80 percent to 33 percent. Omicron dropped protection against hospitalization from 93 percent to 70 percent.

Dr. Becky Smith, an infectious diseases doctor at Duke Health, said that drop in protection against hospitalization has the ability to potentially create land more people in the hospital.

“It’s still too early to tell but I have significant concern. I’m sort of hopeful that that’s not going to be the case but again the reason we are wanting to share all this data is to get people to get vaccinated because that’s the most effective thing,” said Smith.

Fauci said early data showed a booster returned full protection. While the messaging on vaccines and boosters has been persistent, Smith said it’s necessary.

“It’s frustrating and health care workers are exhausted. The stop, go, stop, go nature of it is really challenging and so that’s why we’re really trying to get our messaging out, specifically around vaccination. Even if it takes on-on-one conversations, we’re all still willing to have them because if it keeps someone out of the hospital, that’s a worthwhile endeavor,” said Smith.