Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Christopher Lebos: Hospitalization rate confirms benefits of COVID vaccines

Despite what some say, the number of recent hospitalizations does not prove that vaccines are not useful, quite the contrary.

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In recent days, I’ve been getting some questions about something in the daily COVID-19 announcements that worries a lot of people. It seems that the number of vaccinated hospitalizations is increasing and these days the number of new hospitalizations is highest. That’s true, but that’s not what many people think it means. Many have taken this to mean that vaccines do not work. But that would be a misinterpretation. They clearly do.

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If you consult the Quebec Government’s daily dashboard on the COVID-19 situation, you can get an informative snapshot of where we are in terms of infections, hospitalizations and vaccinations. There were 433 new hospitalizations on 10 January. Of those people, 117 had not been vaccinated, 13 had received one dose, 290 had received two doses and 13 were too young to be eligible. On the surface, it seems that so many vaccinated people are landing in the hospital, and even shocking that there are more immunizations than non-vaccinated people. But these raw numbers are misleading. They do not account for two important factors: the size of the vaccinated population and the age of that population.

To explain, let’s imagine that we have a hypothetical population of 10,000 people where 90 percent of vaccination is done. Now let’s assume that if you are vaccinated you are seven times less likely to end up in the hospital than if you don’t get vaccinated. So for our mathematical experiment, set the hospitalization rate at seven percent for the unvaccinated population and one percent for the vaccinated. In fact any number you choose will lead to the same conclusion as long as you maintain a 7:1 ratio, which is actually very close to the real number.

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So now, if we imagine that COVID-19 infects everyone in our sample population, one percent of our 9,000 vaccinated people will land in the hospital. In other words, 90 vaccinated people end up in hospital after becoming infected with COVID-19 in our theoretical population. Now, out of 1,000 people who are unvaccinated, if seven percent end up in hospital, that means 70 unvaccinated people are being hospitalised.

In hospitalization alone, it appears that the number of 90 vaccinated patients exceeds the number of 70 unvaccinated patients. They do. But the risk of hospitalization remains unchanged. Even if you haven’t been vaccinated, you’re still seven times more likely to be hospitalized.

The one factor I have omitted in the above calculations is the effect of age. Since vaccination rates are lower in younger age groups than older people, and since younger individuals are less likely to be hospitalized than older people, you need to be able to accurately measure the difference in hospitalization rates and protective benefits. To gain understanding, one has to adjust according to age. of vaccines. Once done, the data actually confirms that non-vaccinated people are 7.1 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 13.8 times more likely to be in intensive care, than vaccinated people.

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Many people are deeply disappointed that vaccines did not end the pandemic as many had hoped they would. Unfortunately, the Omicron variant is quite contagious and different enough from earlier strains that it can still infect people who have received the two vaccines.

However, it would be wrong to say that vaccines have failed us. Vaccination, especially after receiving a booster, provides very good protection against serious infection and hospitalization. Despite what some may tell you, the number of recent hospitalizations does not prove that vaccines are not useful. In fact, they affirm their advantage. If a vaccine weren’t available, we wouldn’t be talking about thousands of people in hospital, but potentially tens of thousands more requiring hospitalization and an overburdened health care system where people get the care they need. Can’t get Undoubtedly the situation will get worse.

Christopher Lebos is a Montreal physician and co-host of the Body of Evidence podcast.

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