A recent report on the CTV web site  (https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/breakthrough-covid-19-infections-more-severe-likely-in-immunocompromised-individuals-pfizer-study-1.5687155) discussed the results of a peer-reviewed medical paper.  The paper was a retrospective study of the effects of Covid-19 on a population of 1.2 million people fully-vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine in the US.

The CTV report included the following two paragraphs.  The second of them, especially, can be construed as alarming [your editor’s clarifications added in square brackets]:

Of the cohort [of 1.2 million fully-vaccinated people], 17.7 per cent were identified as immunocompromised. Some of the immunocompromising conditions in the cohort included solid tumours, kidney disease, inflammatory diseases, organ transplants and HIV/AIDS [and hematologic malignancies].

However, immunocompromised participants accounted for 38.2 per cent of all breakthrough infections, 59.7 per cent of all hospitalizations and 100 per cent of all deaths.

But wait a minute … that sounds really drastic.  Almost 60% of all hospitalizations, and 100% of all deaths??   Sure, with WM, many of us are immunocompromised.  But are the risks that bad?

Is there more to this?

Thankfully, the CTV report referenced the journal paper from which the reporter drew their conclusions.  It is at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13696998.2021.2002063.  After a quick read, we find that:

  • The researchers identified 1,277,747 million fully-vaccinated people in the US.  (I’ll call that 1.2 million.)
  • Of those 1.2 million, there were only 978 “breakthrough” Covid-19 cases.  And only 2 deaths.

So, first of all, the vaccine works, and works really well.  Only 2 deaths out of 1.2 million fully-vaccinated people!

Now, looking more closely at just the immunocompromised in the study:

  • Of the 1.2 million, the researchers identified 225,796 as immunocompromised.  (We’ll call that 225K.)
  • 374 of the breakthrough Covid-19 cases were in this immunocompromised population.  So that means this population of 225K had about 38% of the Covid-19 cases.
  • But it also means that only 0.17% (yes, that is much less than 1%) of the 225K immunocompromised caught Covid-19 at all.  So 99.83% of the immunocompromised did not catch Covid-19.  Once again, vaccines work!
  • And of these 374 Covid-19 cases in the immunocompromised, yes, there were 2 deaths.

So the risk of death from Covid-19 among these vaccinated but immunocompromised people was, assuming they caught Covid-19 in the first place, about 0.5%.  This is much less than the 1-3% of deaths among the un-vaccinated population.

So … the bottom line for us who are immunocompromised WMers is:  Caution is advised.  Not despair or panic.  “Get vaccinated, act unvaccinated.”