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Rates of COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising Across our Region

Covid 19 hospitalizations increase

NOTE:  The following information was published Dec. 9, 2021. For current information, please visit

The COVID-19 vaccine offers the best protection against infection and severe illness.

Over the last month, hospitalizations related to COVID-19 infection have risen substantially, adding additional strain to health care organizations and clinicians across the nation. Most people who are hospitalized have not received their initial vaccination series and booster. This emphasizes the importance of the vaccines for those who have yet to be vaccinated.

“If you compare where we are to one month ago, hospitalizations are up 43 percent,” says Alex Benjamin, MD, Chief Infection Control Officer with Lehigh Valley Physician Group (LVPG) Infectious Diseases. “The current number of hospitalizations is the highest we’ve seen since delta became the dominant variant locally at the beginning of July.”

Most hospitalized are unvaccinated

With over 85 percent of those hospitalized statewide known to be unvaccinated, and more children hospitalized at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) due to COVID-19 than ever before, it is clear the pandemic continues to primarily affect the unvaccinated.

At LVHN facilities alone, 76.6 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated and only 0.4 percent are fully vaccinated and have received a booster.

“While hospitalizations are rising, what doesn't change is that COVID-19 vaccines save lives,” Benjamin says.

In addition to the importance of initial vaccinations, preliminary data from Pfizer and BioNTech have added additional insight into the importance of booster shots. Recent blood test results reported by the companies suggest that people who received three doses of their vaccine were more protected against infection from the newest COVID-19 variant (omicron) than individuals who only received two doses.

Risk factors for severe illness

Your risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 and requiring hospitalization is significantly higher if you have or are any of the following (especially if you are unvaccinated):

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic lung disease (including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension)
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions, including heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies or hypertension
  • HIV infection
  • Liver disease
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
  • Undergone a solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
  • Overweight or obese
  • A current or former smoker
  • Immunocompromised
  • A substance use disorder

“At LVHN, we are clearly seeing the worst possible outcomes and the highest volumes of hospitalizations from unvaccinated patients. Getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is without a doubt the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others,” says infectious diseases physician Timothy Friel, MD, Chair, Department of Medicine, LVHN. “We are also encouraging everyone who has completed their initial vaccine series to get their boosters.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends booster shots for all adults 18 and older if they are six months past completing their Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna series or two months after receiving their Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It is also recommended that children age 16-17 who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and are six months past their second dose get a booster.

COVID-19 vaccines at LVHN

There are two easy ways to schedule a vaccine appointment through LVHN (whether it’s part of your initial series, a booster or a third shot):

  • Sign in to MyLVHN, our patient portal
  • Call the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 833-584-6283 (Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)
Annual Report-Vaccines

COVID-19 Vaccines

You may have questions about their safety and effectiveness. We have the answers.

Get the vax facts

Additional Safety Precautions

We know that COVID-19 will be here for the near future, and although there may be changes in the number of cases and hospitalization rates, the general precautions will remain the same.

In addition to getting fully vaccinated, there are other safety precautions you and your family can take in your everyday lives, including:

  • Wearing well-fitting masks indoors if you have conditions (or take medications) that weaken your immune system or if you are visiting an area with high transmission.
  • Wearing well-fitting masks outdoors if you are in a highly populated area in close contact with unvaccinated individuals.
  • Practicing hand hygiene and physical distancing.
  • Avoiding crowded spaces.

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