85% of people hospitalized with COVID-19's omicron variant are unvaccinated, doctors say

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston health care leaders told ABC13 that while the omicron variant is leading to more breakthrough infections, the vast majority of those folks who need medical attention remain unvaccinated.

Dr. Esmaeil Porsa heads Harris Health System and said that as of Friday morning, health care workers are treating 194 patients for COVID-19 at their area hospitals. That's the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

SEE RELATED STORY: ABC13 town hall to explore omicron variant's impact in Houston area

Dr. Porsa said between 84% and 85% of those 194 did not receive a COVID vaccine. He stressed people should use common sense measures like, wearing masks, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene to protect themselves. Dr. Porsa also said that with omicron being so contagious, it's unlikely people will not encounter the virus.

"I think we're going to arrive at a point where so many people are going to get infected with COVID," said Dr. Porsa. "The light at the end of the tunnel in my mind is that hopefully this is the last surge. By the time this is all said and done, as painful as it's going to be, as painful as it that we're going to be losing several thousand more people to COVID, hopefully this is the last big surge of COVID that we're going to experience."

Around 85% of the patients at Memorial Hermann Health System's intensive care units were not vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Dr. James McCarthy, the hospital's chief physician executive.

Dr. McCarthy said those that are vaccinated and require medical intervention for COVID likely have other serious health issues at play.

"This (the Omicron variant) is spreading very rapidly through the community," said Dr. McCarthy. "I think the reported rates grossly underestimate the burden of disease in the community because the people who are taking an at-home test that's positive but feel well enough that they don't have to go to the hospital, aren't calling the state, the CDC with their results. There is a huge amount of people who have COVID that never get reported in the official numbers. I do think if you're walking out and about and not being cautious right now and you're not vaccinated, the likelihood that you get COVID is exceptionally high."

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