Thomas B. Langhorne
Evansville Courier & Press
EVANSVILLE – Robb Walter III was just 42 years old when he died last weekend, his father says, of COVID-19 pneumonia – unvaccinated.
Walter – “Bulldog” to friends and family – left behind a girlfriend, a band he was playing in, a job he loved and parents who are telling the world on Facebook not to make their son’s mistake.
“My wife and myself, we had our shots but since he had COVID early last year he didn’t think he needed the vaccine,” Robert Walter II said of his son, who lived in Southern Illinois.
Walter posted a comment Friday on his wife’s Facebook page, which trumpets vaccination.
“(Robb Walter III) was wrong and one of his last words to me was, ‘Dad I should had listen to you and (his stepmother). Tell my friends Please take the Vaccine,'” he wrote.
Local hospitals are not disclosing how many of their patients who died of COVID-19 were unvaccinated – but statewide data leaves little room for doubt. Almost all of the Indiana residents who have died of the coronavirus since Jan. 18 have been unvaccinated.
The state saw 3,801 coronavirus deaths between that date and Sept. 16 — 94% of them unvaccinated, according to an Indiana University Northwest analysis. The Indiana State Department of Health uses Jan. 18 as its benchmark because that’s the earliest date breakthrough cases could be identified based on the timing of the state’s vaccine rollout last winter.
The IU Northwest analysis shows just how big a difference a COVID patient’s age can make.
It reports that almost everyone – 97.9% – of the 877 residents younger than 65 who died of COVID-19 was unvaccinated.
“I knew being vaccinated was helpful, but it’s really helpful if you’re young,” said IU Northwest data analyst Micah Pollak.
Correlations between vaccine hesitancy, youth and the nature of the Delta variant help explain what’s happening, Dr. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi, an associate professor of public health at the University of Evansville, said this month.
With most elderly local residents vaccinated, Patel-Dovlatabadi said, the virus preys on the groups that are left to prey on — people with other health issues and the unvaccinated. Local hospitals say almost every COVID-19 patient in their ICUs and on ventilators is unvaccinated.
But being fully vaccinated doesn’t provide full protection against the coronavirus – especially if you’re a senior citizen with a weakened immune system. The average age of the 211 vaccinated Hoosiers who died between Jan. 18 and Sept. 16 was 80, according to state vaccination data.