Who is in charge of Covid-19 intensive care today? Spoiler: only 1 in 5 is vaccinated

Who is in charge of Covid-19 intensive care today? Spoiler: only 1 in 5 is vaccinated

Who is in charge of Covid-19 intensive care today? Spoiler

The data available for Italy highlight a clear imbalance in the Covid-19 hospital wards between those who are vaccinated and those who are not. Here is what emerges from the numbers and which indicators can be misleading

(photo: Olga Kononenko / Unsplash) At the moment, waiting to understand how the epidemic curves will evolve, the overall occupation of intensive care units and hospital wards causes Covid -19 remains significantly below the guard level. In all regions, intensive care is well below 10% (with the national average at 3.9%), absolute values ​​just above 350 and a downward trend for over a month. All this in the face of peaks that reached well over 3 thousand and with the data of October 2020 which showed a very rapid rise in this period. The same is happening in a completely similar way with non-intensive hospitalizations, which fell below 2,500 and with an average occupancy of 4.2%.

If at the moment the absolute numbers are reassuring because fortunately they are much lower to those we were sadly accustomed to, the data we have available are still sufficient to extract useful and significant statistical information to give a measure of the effect caused by vaccinations. As we already told a few months ago, the only point of attention concerns the choice of reasonable statistical indicators, because for example it makes no sense to compare the absolute values ​​collected between vaccinated and unvaccinated, forgetting that the latter are a sample of people much (or rather, very much) smaller than the first.

The numbers of intensive care

To take a picture of the situation that is recent and at the same time significant, we can consider for example the month of September 2021. This is the month from the beginning of summer onwards in which there was the greatest number of new admissions to intensive care (probably in October we will have fewer, if the trend does not change significantly in the short term), for a total of 912 people according to the data of the Higher Institute of Health.

On this sample of people, the differences are so clear that they can even be understood from the absolute numbers. There were 174 new hospitalizations among the vaccinated, while there were 717 among those who had not received any dose of the vaccine. The remaining 21 involved people who had received only the first of the two planned doses. Which means that 78.6% of Covid-19 intensive care employment is determined by unvaccinated people. Or possibly we could talk about 80.9% if we count all the people not fully vaccinated. In short, only 1 in 5 people who enter intensive care are vaccinated, while the other 4 are not.

It is not easy to estimate how much the number of intensive care admissions could be reduced assuming that the entire Italian population was vaccinated, but in the crudest of approximations (i.e. neglecting the differences in distribution by age and pathology between vaccinated and non-vaccinated) it can be calculated that the 912 entries in September in intensive care could have been reduced to 250. And in proportion, the current 350 intensive places occupied could have been just under 100 (96, doing an arithmetic calculation). Vaccines are able to reduce the probability of hospitalization in intensive care (and even death) by 95%, to reduce by 93% that of hospitalizations in ordinary wards and (based on registered diagnoses) by 77% that of contagion. In other words, again for the month of September 21% of unvaccinated people corresponded to 59.0% of diagnoses, 69.2% of hospitalizations and 78.6% of admissions to intensive care.

Keep an eye on age

If the data described so far are comprehensive on all age groups, when we go into detail the numbers can be even more significant, as long as we do not fall into the effect -paradox due to the advanced state of the vaccination campaign for the elderly. For example, it is true that among the over 80s in September we had more intensive care admissions among the vaccinated (54) than among the unvaccinated (38), but the unvaccinated correspond to a population of only 274 thousand people, while the vaccinated are 4.2 million. That is 15 times more.

If you evaluate the incidence per 100 thousand people, in fact, among the over 80s, 13.9 people among the unvaccinated end up in intensive care, and 1.3 among the vaccinated. Namely, the vaccine reduces the likelihood of needing intensive care by more than 10 times. Looking at hospitalizations, also in September there were 673 among the unvaccinated and 1,175 among the vaccinated, or 245 against 28 in the calculation for every 100 thousand over 80, i.e. thanks to the vaccine there was an almost 9-fold reduction in the probability of hospitalization.

At the opposite end of the distribution by age, ie on the youngest group among the over 12 who can be vaccinated, the situation is even more evident. The vaccine - again based on the September data - between 12 and 39 years of age reduced the risk of hospitalization by 21 times and that in intensive care by 12 times, even if these data are sometimes forgotten due to the low probability of hospitalization for Covid-19 which also occurs among the unvaccinated. Yet it is data that makes sense to underline: the incidence of under-40 hospitalizations per 100 thousand people is 25.4 among the unvaccinated, and 1.2 among the vaccinated. For intensive care, the vaccine drops from 1.2 to just 0.1 (i.e. one in a million).

The non-infallibility objection

These and many other statistics have been developed, in Italy and abroad, in recent months. There are those who summarize (correctly) by saying that hospital wards (intensive and non-intensive) are three-quarters filled with unvaccinated people. Who remembers that 21% of unvaccinated, and especially that very small but decisive 6% of unvaccinated over 80, corresponds to a good half of total Covid-19 deaths. Who shows how among the deceased the average age is higher in the vaccinated population. And so on.

The objections that are received, however, most of the time completely bypass the quantitative and numerical aspect and stop at qualitative considerations. For example, it is still possible to get infected, be hospitalized or die from vaccinations. And that therefore the vaccine does not eliminate but limits itself to "reduce a little" the problem, just as at the same time it "increases a little" the risk of side effects.

The criticism thus made of vaccines - not being able to do it on numerical comparisons, which in any way show them the individual and collective advantage of vaccination - is therefore based on a substantial accusation of non-infallibility. The fact that the vaccine is not a miracle preparation capable of guaranteeing 100% effectiveness and 0% side effects. Whether it is a preparation that on the one hand "does good" and on the other "hurts" (not to mention the numbers, which otherwise would reveal the enormous quantitative disparity between the two issues). Or again, that perhaps people who have been vaccinated and yet are sick, hospitalized or dead are known.

According to this criterion, however, we should not consider any drug and treatment useful, since no one is able to guarantee optimal results in the absolute totality of patients. Moreover, the anti Covid-19 vaccines have shown, numbers in hand, to be particularly effective and safe formulations and, even if it is possible that in the future new alternatives with even higher performances will arrive, the vaccines available today are more than satisfactory. Even with respect to vaccines for other diseases, or to the average of drugs in general.

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