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Does The COVID-19 Vaccine Really Work To Prevent Hospitalizations?

Hospital bed

These data put the world in tension, in the event that countries must return to strict quarantines to stop this advance. Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: ¿Realmente funciona la vacuna contra la COVID-19 para evitar hospitalizaciones?

With the new wave of COVID-19, mandatory vaccination and its effectiveness, the application of third doses and confinements are in the public debate. Does the COVID-19 vaccine really work to prevent hospitalizations? .

With the arrival of winter, a new wave of Coronavirus is threatening Europe. According to the report of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, November 24, cases rose 11% in this region. In fact, Hans Kluge, WHO director for Europe, warned that urgent measures must be taken, because if the trend continues as it is today, 2.2 million deaths could be reached by next spring.

These data put the world in tension with the scenario that countries must return to strict quarantines to stop this advance. Health authorities recommend maintaining sanitary measures and continuing to advance vaccination. However, people who are reluctant to be vaccinated are posing a great challenge to states.

At this point, it is necessary to wonder about the real effectiveness of the vaccine to avoid hospitalizations and deaths. Although many countries still do not have exact figures on the number of vaccinated people who have died or been in serious condition, the studies that have been done show that vaccines are successful and necessary. In fact, experts have insisted that these figures be released to motivate the population to get vaccinated and put on reinforcements.

An analysis carried out by the Ministry of Health and the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, with more than 3 million people vaccinated against the coronavirus, found that only 8 people, out of every 10,000 inhabitants with full vaccination, required hospitalization. Of these, only 1.5 were admitted to intensive care.

To verify the effectiveness of vaccines, it is possible to make a comparison between two countries with different vaccination rates. For example, data from Spain show that there is an incidence of infections of 132 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, during the last 14 days and a vaccination rate, of the complete scheme, of about 90%. With these levels, and occupancy of hospital beds of 5% and 2% in the ICU has been registered. In addition, data have shown that in the vaccinated population group aged 60 to 80 years, the risk of infection decreases 8 times. They also have 18 times lower risk of hospitalization and a 25 times lower risk of death.

In contrast, Austria, which is in crisis again due to the pandemic, has a vaccination rate close to 65% and in recent weeks it has had an incidence of about 1,107 infections per 100,000 inhabitants. For October, data published by the Austrian Press Agency showed that 17% of hospitalizations were of vaccinated people.

Also read: Molnupiravir Pill: Alternative to COVID-19 Vaccine?

On the other hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States have stated that although vaccines work well, there are none that are 100% effective and some vaccinated people can get sick. These cases are called groundbreaking infections. However, even in this situation, a less severe infection tends to develop. It also notes that people with weakened immune systems "are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and may not develop the same level of immunity with the 2-dose series of vaccines compared to people who are not immunosuppressed."

Vaccination controversies: an unresolved dilemma

One of the aspects that have been most criticized regarding the application of the third dose is the inequality in the access of vaccines in the world population. In other words, several countries have the capacity to vaccinate their population quickly and put reinforcements, while there are other states with fewer resources, which have not been able to guarantee vaccination for their population. In fact, Our World in Data records that 53.5% of the world's population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, but of this percentage, only 5.2% are inhabitants of low-income countries.

Regarding the compulsory nature of vaccination that some countries, such as Austria, have decided or are contemplating implementing, there is an important debate about which rights should prevail: that of self-determination and the freedom of people to decide about their body or those related to public health. In this regard, there have been strong demonstrations in Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands, which have even turned violent, against the measures adopted by the countries to pressure vaccination.