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Medical leaders say young people now make up a higher percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations

Hospital leaders said the shift shows vaccinations are effective with older age groups, but it also shows young people need to be more cautious and get vaccinated.

NORFOLK, Va. — Hampton Roads medical leaders said young people now make up a higher percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region, reflecting a need for "caution" and vaccinations among that age group.

The shift also shows the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccinations with older demographics, hospital leaders said, as many older people have already received a COVID-19 vaccine that reduces severe symptoms and effects of the virus.

“They are higher percentages of the patients we’re seeing now – the younger patients – and I think some folks are letting their guard down," said Dr. Lewis Siegel, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

About 40% of Virginians have received at least one COVID-19 shot. 

The Commonwealth and local health departments prioritized giving vaccines to people over 65 years old, and hospital leaders said the data shows vaccines are effective.

“We’re seeing younger people get hospitalized that we’re not seeing in the older populations coming in because they’ve gotten vaccinated," said Mary Morin, Sentara Healthcare Vice President for Clinical Effectiveness.

With all adults now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, hospital leaders said they hope more young people can get fully vaccinated – limiting exposures and hospitalizations in that age group.

“Vaccinations are going to make a huge impact and I hope everyone takes the opportunity to take the vaccine when they can," Siegel said.

Over the last three months, Virginia hospitalizations have decreased from about 3,000 to about 1,000. However, the number of Virginians hospitalized with COVID-19 has leveled out around 1,000 since late March.

Morin said a few fully vaccinated people are still contracting COVID-19 and needing medical care, but it’s a small percentage and their symptoms are likely reduced.

“Hopefully not as severe as you would’ve gotten it, had you not been fully vaccinated," she said.

In 2020, the average age of a Virginian hospitalized with COVID-19 was 67 years old, according to Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association data.