The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), continues to wreak havoc across the globe. As of July 29, 2021, the number of cases has reached over 195 million, with more than 4.18 million deaths.
Vaccination efforts have begun in most countries around the world. Vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 offers protection against infection, however, many people still await their vaccination doses.
In a new report out of Italy, health officials reported that almost 99 percent of people who have died from COVID-19 since February 2021 were not fully vaccinated. The report released by the National Health Institute (ISS) showed that the few fully vaccinated people who died of COVID-19 were also older than those who died without complete COVID-19 vaccine doses.
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The report describes the characteristics of about 127,044 people who died of COVID-19 in Italy since February. Of these patients, the average age is 80 years. In addition, the number of women who died due to COVID-19 is higher than those of men.
The report also noted the trend in the average age of SARS-CoV-2 positive deaths among patients per calendar week from February 2020 and July 2020. Up to July 21, 2020, there are 423 SARS-CoV-2 positive deaths in people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and represent 1.2 percent of all SARS-CoV-2 positive deaths that happened since February 1, 2020.
Health officials based their analysis on a sample of 70 medical records of SARS-CoV-2 positive deaths among fully vaccinated patients. Of the 127,044 deaths noted, 1,479 were below 50 years old, and 355 of these are under 40 years old, most of which have serious underlying health conditions.
In terms of comorbidities in those who died from COVID-19, the most commonly reported condition was arterial hypertension, followed by diabetes mellitus 2, ischemic heart disease, atrial fibrillation, and dementia. Overall, 226 patients from the sample had no pathologies or underlying health conditions, 884 had one condition, 1,393 had two pathologies, and over 5,000 had three or more pathologies.
However, the report notes that these were based on 7,681 deceased patients’ medical records. This means that it represents only the deaths of those who have been hospitalized.
The most-reported complications in people who have died from COVID-19 after receiving full vaccine doses are acute respiratory failure, followed by acute kidney damage, superinfections, and acute myocardial damage.
All the deaths with a confirmed diagnosis were classified as vaccinated with full-cycle 14 days after the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines. Although, for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, only one dose is required for protection. A person is deemed fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the appropriate dose.
Further, the average age in the sample of medical records in the report is 88.6 years, compared with 86.3 years in deaths with a complete vaccination cycle.
“The results presented here can have two possible explanations. First, very elderly patients with numerous pathologies may have a reduced immune response and therefore be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and its complications despite having been vaccinated,” the team explained.
Second, the health officials noted that the result could be explained by the fact that priority has been given for vaccination for older and high-risk individuals, representing the population with the highest prevalence of full-cycle vaccination.
The report was based on data from medical records and the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) death files recording the patients’ cause of death. Apart from deaths, the web platform was also used for the national epidemiological and virological surveillance of COVID-19 cases in Italy.
Italy followed France’s public advisory of using vaccination proof or immunity as passes when entering establishments for activities such as indoor dining and entering cinemas, museums, gyms, and pools, among others.
Since the announcements, Italian officials noted a significant increase in vaccination bookings. At present, about 57 percent of the population over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated.
Globally, over 3.96 billion doses have been administered.