NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the number of fully vaccinated people contracting COVID-19 and needing hospitalization is on the rise, there’s a certain population more affected than others. Some have even died.

Researchers with Vanderbilt are describing a fourth surge of COVID as “very concerning.” In particular, the number of hospitalizations in the state going up at an incredibly fast pace – already surpassing the peak from last summer.

Tuesday, more than 1,700 patients were hospitalized with COVID.

As the director of Vanderbilt’s Medical Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Todd Rice finds himself treating Tennesseans fighting a virus they’ve already sought protection for. “What is a person supposed to do? They did everything we asked them to, and they still were unfortunate.”

He’s referring to patients who have been vaccinated. More than a thousand breakthrough cases have been reported in Tennessee. 272 required hospitalization, and 39 fully vaccinated people have died, according to the latest data from the State Health Department.

“We are yet to see a breakthrough case in the ICU at Vanderbilt – that is somebody that is a healthy person that is vaccinated.” Dr. Rice says, “The breakthrough cases that we are seeing all have significant medical problems – specifically some sort of immunosuppression.”

While it’s still rare that breakthrough cases will require care in the ICU, some patients face a grave outcome. “We have a few deaths, and it’s all immunosuppressed patients.”

Based on data from across the country, Dr. Rice believes a new recommendation will soon be made to keep those compromised healthy. “It does look like the CDC and the FDA are going to move to try to get a booster vaccine for the immunosuppressed.”

He hopes a third shot will finally create the immune response needed to protect them. “The likelihood that an immunosuppressed person would have had an immune response, if they had 3 shots, is considerably better than if they’ve only gotten 2 shots.”

Dr. Rice expects that change to happen in the next 2-3 weeks.

He says those immune suppressed in the ICU contracted the virus from a family member or friend.

So, Dr. Rice urges those who interact with a compromised person to also get vaccinated.