This is one of the few horizons that grants optimism: the effects of vaccination against covid-19 are scrutinized and expected. The injections officially started on December 27 in nursing homes, but the actual acceleration of vaccination was observed during the week of January 11, six weeks ago. The opening to over 75 years not residing in Ehpad dates from January 18.
However, in recent weeks, the rate of hospitalizations and deaths seems to have slowed down a little more strongly among the elderly. Behind the scenes: potentially fewer serious cases in this particularly at-risk population, under the effect of vaccines. In the case of Pfizer like Moderna, currently used in the elderly, protection appears from the first dose, approximately two weeks after the injection.
Fewer hospitalizations and deaths
At the end of December, one in two hospital patients (50%) was 80 years or older. As of February 21, this proportion has fallen, reaching 45%.
On the death side, the trend also shows some improvements since the end of January, although these figures are more complicated to follow. Their daily number in hospital has been declining among those over 80 since the start of the month, whereas it had previously increased. In institutions for the elderly, the toll over one week fell from 727 deaths at the end of January to 481 on February 19. The number of daily deaths from all causes (and not just from cases of covid-19) is also decreasing in people over 80 years of age.
Finally, the incidence rate by age group shows a more marked drop among the oldest.
No automatic link but already changes
It would be tempting to automatically associate these reductions with vaccination, when 1.5 million over 75 years are now received at least one dose, including three quarters of nursing home residents. In his weekly point, Public Health France also noted the improvement of indicators in the over 75s while stressing the fact that more than two in ten have now received a dose of vaccine. “In a not too distant period, we can hope to see the first effects in terms of reduction of hospitalizations and mortality”, for its part cautiously declared Monday on LCI immunologist Alain Fischer, responsible for managing the vaccine strategy.
While the effect is likely, it cannot be finely measured at this point. “It’s difficult to make a connection,” epidemiologist Catherine Hill told us on February 15. “The effects appear after 14 days, which shifts the benefit accordingly. And even from then on, the onset of symptoms and possible death still take a longer time ”. Other factors are at play. seasonality of deaths, which makes the months of January and February a usual peak in mortality over a year, the increased caution of unvaccinated elderly people can also have an effect, as can all barrier gestures.
“Theoretically, vaccination must have already reduced the number of severe forms”, indicates to the Parisian Stéphane Gaudry, professor of intensive medicine in intensive care at the Avicenne hospital, while stressing that this is not enough, at this stage, to significantly reduce the hospital burden. Despite everything, accommodation establishments for the elderly have already adapted their measures taking into account a significant vaccination coverage. The change is taking shape, but it will take a few more weeks before it can be quantified, and confirmed, especially in the face of concerns about variants.
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