/ 10 September 2021

Data shows there’s a higher risk of landing up in ICU or dying if you’re not vaccinated

Butovo Hospice Of Moscow Palliative Care Centre Amid Covid 19 Pandemic
Hospital admissions in Africa have increased by 67% during the period but the bed occupancy rate for intensive care units remains low at 7.5%, with 14% of the patients receiving supplemental oxygen. (Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images)

Your chance of ending up in the intensive care unit (ICU) with Covid-19 related complications is 80% higher when you are not vaccinated against the virus.

Nicholas Crisp, the acting director general in the health department, told parliament’s health committee late on Thursday that the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines was finally being seen when comparing the number of people admitted to hospital between those who had received at least one dose and those who had not been vaccinated.

“On the 5th of September, there were 11 205 people in public and private hospitals in the country; 1 956 of those people have had a vaccine, one dose at least, and 9 249 were not vaccinated. So your chance of ending up in hospital unvaccinated is in a ratio of 83% to 17%,” Crisp said.

“Then the question is, if you are in hospital, how sick do you get? Of those 11 205 that were in hospital, 767 were in high care. Of the 767 people], 129 were vaccinated — remember, at least one dose … and 638 were unvaccinated. So, again, the same ratio we saw in hospital of 83% not vaccinated and 17% vaccinated.”

Of the 1 611 patients in intensive care, 325 were vaccinated with at least one dose, while 1 286 had not been inoculated, Crisp said. The health department was analysing the numbers over a longer period, and with a bigger amount of data, to see how many of those who had been vaccinated had had at least one dose, he added.

What was currently known, said Crisp, was that one dose of the Pfizer vaccine did not give full cover to prevent severe illness.

“We will be reporting on those in future. So, do vaccines work? Yes, they do work and they keep you outside of the hospital.” 

Earlier this week, Groote Schuur Hospital in the Western Cape released an infographic  that showed a huge difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated people admitted at the facility.

“Vaccinations can certainly prevent hospital admissions for severe Covid as well as death,” the province’s chief director general for specialist & emergency services, Dr Saadiq Kariem, said.

“There is absolutely no doubt that vaccines save lives. The Western Cape data of cases diagnosed with Covid-19 in those over 60 years during the week of the 14th to the 20th of August confirms this. This age cohort has the highest vaccine coverage and therefore represents a comprehensive and accurate data set.”

During this period, 2 455 in the 60+ cohort tested positive for Covid-19 in the Western Cape. Of these, 92% were not vaccinated. Out of the 292 people who died from Covid-19 related complications, 98.3% were not vaccinated. 

“This data clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the vaccines and how they can help in reducing the risk of ending up in hospital with severe illness or of dying from Covid-19. This is why we are encouraging people to take up vaccination to protect themselves, save their lives and protect the lives of others,” Kariem said.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) will soon also be able to give regular reporting on cases, admissions and deaths comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The institute does not have the vaccination status data to enable a similar analysis in all hospitals, but a partnership with the department of health will soon give it access to data on the national electronic vaccination data system.

“The Groote Schuur infographic of very low numbers of admissions and no ICU and ventilated patients among those vaccinated is not surprising. It is consistent with data from many countries that show the vaccine offers very good protection against hospitalisation and death,” the NICD’s Dr Waasila Jassat said.

Data that is yet to be published by the NICD shows that vaccinated people admitted with Covid-19 have a lower risk of being ventilated and dying, Jassat said.

“It is critical that we vaccinate as many adults as possible — many more Covid hospitalisations and deaths will be prevented through high vaccine coverage.”