NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As America surpasses 700,000 COVID-19 deaths, Tennessee could be plateauing; but doctors warn it’s not something to celebrate.

Over 15,000 people have died of COVID complications in the state, since the start of the pandemic.

The reasons range as to why younger people are deciding to get the COVID-19 shot.

“I got vaccinated because I wanted to protect people that were immunocompromised,” Karlie Deberard said.

“Because we need out of the pandemic, and I’m also a doctor,” a Middle Tennessee pediatrician said.

Some decided to get vaccinated to help protect new members of their household. “He was born with respiratory issues so he needs a fighting chance so if it takes me getting a shot to get it — I’m getting it,” Thomas Daugherty said.

The recent delta surge was driven by the younger population.

“Early on in the pandemic we were seeing a lot more of the elderly — 65 and over,” said Dr. Todd Rice, the Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“The younger population is less well vaccinated, they’re getting the virus, the younger population in general, has a lower chance to get hospitalized when they get the virus, said Rice. “But it’s not zero, so we’re seeing some younger patients and they’re sick.”

Many of the younger patients are often hospitalized longer.

“The younger people who end up dying tend to have a longer ICU [stay] before they die, as opposed to the older people. So with more younger people in the hospital, more younger people in the ICU, we’re seeing a longer delay in our death counts,” Rice said.

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Dr. Rice, who has been working the COVID frontlines at Vanderbilt since the start of the pandemic, said the younger population includes a wide age range.

“We talk about people over the age of 65, the elderly, and how they are at risk and a little bit frail and that sort of stuff,” Rice said. “That age right below them, sort of that 40 to 60-year-olds, are at a higher risk than the 20 or 40-year-olds for sure. We’ve seen a reasonable number of them get really sick and die on us.”

Dr. Rice also notes that he has seen folks as young as 20 die from COVID.