DANVILLE, Pa. — COVID-19 hospitalizations are down all across Pennsylvania. Geisinger officials say there is a slow but steady decrease in the number of patients needing to be hospitalized, but the age group is changing.
"We're no longer seeing the 80+, the 65+ in the hospital. We're seeing the younger people. We're seeing the 20 to 49 year olds in the hospital more than any other age group," said Dr. Gerald Maloney, Geisinger's Chief Medical Officer for Hospital Services.
Dr. Maloney believes the COVID-19 vaccine is responsible for the decline in hospitalizations in people over 65 and those with underlying medical conditions.
"The number of people with diabetes in the hospital is down by 11%. The number of smokers who have required hospitalization is down by 7%," Dr. Maloney said.
Dr. Maloney says hospitalizations for people ages 20 to 49 are up by about 15 percent at Geisinger. He believes many people in this age group are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine.
"More people in the younger groups are becoming infected while more people in the older groups are not," Dr. Maloney said.
The demand for the COVID-19 vaccine has peaked. About half of the state's population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccine.
"That's not high enough. We need to get up in the 70-80% to achieve the herd immunity that we need so that the vaccines work better," Dr. Maloney said.
Dr. Maloney also tells Newswatch 16 the longer it takes to reach herd immunity, the more chances there are for new variants of the virus to form.