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Unvaccinated patients dominate COVID deaths and ICU


Jolyon Attwooll


20/09/2021 4:55:09 PM

Most people who have died from COVID-19 in NSW had not received a vaccine, while no one under 70 has died having received two doses.

Man in ICU with COVID.
Around 9% of people hospitalised in NSW during the ongoing Delta outbreak have been treated in ICU. (Image: AAP)

Less than 2% of people admitted to intensive care in New South Wales in the first 11 weeks of the recent outbreak were fully vaccinated, the latest NSW Health weekly surveillance report shows.
 
The document, which gives a breakdown of the vaccination status of all those who enter the hospital system with COVID-19, also shows that none of the 15 fully vaccinated patients who died of the disease were under 70.
 
The latest report covers the week from 29 August until 4 September, the most recent period for which official data has been released in the state at the centre of the largest COVID-19 outbreak so far in Australia.
 
It indicates 4654 people were hospitalised due to COVID-19 from the beginning of the outbreak in June until that time, of which around 9% (441) were treated in ICU.
 
Of the total admitted to hospital, 153 (3.3%) were confirmed as fully vaccinated, while 844 (18.1%) were partially vaccinated and the rest (3657) were unvaccinated, or their vaccination status was unable to be established.
 
In total 284 unvaccinated people (64.4%) had been treated in ICU during the latest outbreak up to 4 September. Seventy patients (15.9%) who received intensive care were categorised as partially vaccinated, while eight (1.8%) were fully vaccinated.
 
The remaining 79 people treated in ICU had an undetermined vaccination status.
 
Professor Dimity Pond, an honorary professor of general practice at the University of Newcastle, said the figures in the surveillance reports correspond with expectations about the vaccines.
 
‘That’s the kind of pattern that we’ve been seeing where the deaths are very largely in people who aren’t vaccinated,’ Professor Pond told newsGP.
 
‘It’s really hard data. It can’t be interpreted in any way other than vaccination means that you’re less likely to die.’
 
Until 4 September, there were 129 confirmed COVID deaths within NSW – again mostly among the unvaccinated. Of those deaths, 15 (11.6%) were confirmed as fully vaccinated, including six people in their 70s, five in their 80s and four in their 90s.
 
For Professor Pond, the data underlines the importance of caution even when the protection from the vaccines is deemed strongest.
 
‘The lesson I take from that is for older people, you can still get COVID if you are vaccinated, particularly if you’ve got underlying conditions,’ she said.
 
‘And it’s still worth, therefore, social distancing and wearing the mask and being careful.’
 
On Monday the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian reiterated a previous warning that the state’s ICUs are expected to come under most pressure in October, despite an apparent flattening in the number of cases being detected in recent days.
 
There has also been an increased number of daily deaths in recent weeks, with tracking website COVIDLIVE reporting a substantial rise over the past seven days.
 
The vaccination status of patients is less publicly available in Victoria but is often referred to during the daily COVID-19 press conferences. As of 20 September, there had been 12 deaths reported in the state from the recent Delta outbreak.
 
There are currently more than 230 COVID-19 patients in ICU in New South Wales, and 54 reportedly in intensive care in Victoria.
 
Authors of the NSW Health surveillance reports warn that vaccinated people are likely to figure more prominently in future reports.
 
‘As the proportion of the population who are vaccinated increases, the numbers of cases who are fully vaccinated will increase but this does not mean the vaccines are not working,’ the latest report reads.
 
‘The COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia are very effective with evidence showing that people who are fully vaccinated are 70–95% less likely to get sick with COVID-19 compared with those who are not vaccinated.’
 
Professor Pond says she has seen examples within her own practice where vaccination has shielded a vulnerable person with COVID-19 from dying.
 
‘Vaccination makes a huge difference,’ she said. ‘It might not stop you getting the virus. But it makes a difference to whether you die or not.’
 
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Dr Alexandra Bernhardi   21/09/2021 8:57:26 AM

Other than dividing patients into "vaccinated" and "unvaccinated" it would be very helpful to look at and report underlying health conditions such as insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, and nutritional deficiencies as well as Vitamin D status. The number one strategy to fight this pandemic needs to be looking at the root causes of why people fall ill from this virus. There are multiple studies showing that the majority of deaths occur in people with chronic conditions, and we all know that the majority of chronic conditions are lifestyle-related and preventable.
This means now is the time to educate people (and reinforce this through political frameworks) to improve their general health instead of keeping them locked in tunnel vision. Obviously, vaccination serves people with risk factors well in the short-term, but without long-term strategy this vaccination frenzy will never be effective.


Dr Mohammed Atiqul Hasan Ansary   21/09/2021 9:23:11 AM

I agree with you Dr Bernhardi. Looks like the vaccine will prevent deaths from pneumonia, pneumonitis, stroke, uncontrolled diabetes and so on. We are lead to believe that that people are not dying from these conditions any more as they have covid infection.


Dr Shannon Dean Marsh   21/09/2021 9:29:16 AM

The benefits of vaccination in those over 50 or with certain chronic health care conditions can't be denied. There is also a predominance of overweight, smoking diabetics who are admitted to cardiac care units with AMI as well but no-one is talking about mandating normal BMI, mandating all healthcare workers quit smoking etc or else we choose to treat only those non-smokers with normal BMI. One of the most funny things I have seen of late is a person pull down their mask to smoke a cigarette....


Dr Dilip Singh Chauhan   21/09/2021 12:13:33 PM

Finally it’s established that non vaccinated patients will die . I have a cruel suggestion that those who refuse vaccination will lose Mrdicare cover for treatment of Covid related illness


Dr Ian   21/09/2021 12:25:11 PM

Infusion of the monoclonal antibody Sotrovimab has Emergency Use Approval from the FDA of the USA for use early in Covid 19 illness to prevent deterioration in high risk patients and has been claimed to reduce hospital admission and death by up to 85% .(Anil Gupta et al Preprint trial BMJ Yale May 2021 )
Australia purchased 7700 doses and in the USA hundreds of thousand of infusions have been adminstered and 1.7 million more doses have been purchased .
It is a bridge to full vaccination and oral medications
General Practitioners have to be aware of this as soon as their patients are diagnosed early on in their disease .
Infusions are available according to the Doherty Institute .
We need to know more .


Dr Suzette Julie Finch   9/10/2021 2:28:23 PM

@ Dr Ian - info of comes medication updates comes through nps & other reputable pages if you sign up to their email list.
https://www.nps.org.au/australian-prescriber/articles/sotrovimab-for-covid-19


Dr Suzette Julie Finch   9/10/2021 2:36:48 PM

But I think this is/ will be more likely to be "our" (GP) covid drug, once it's approved.
https://www.merck.com/news/merck-and-ridgebacks-investigational-oral-antiviral-molnupiravir-reduced-the-risk-of-hospitalization-or-death-by-approximately-50-percent-compared-to-placebo-for-patients-with-mild-or-moderat/
https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/hopes-grow-that-gps-will-soon-have-antiviral-pill