COVID-19: New data on South Africa hospitalisations reveals how omicron dodges vaccines 

Some 22.6% of those hospitalised currently in South Africa are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

By Taran Deol
Published: Monday 17 January 2022
Photo: istock
Photo: istock Photo: istock

The omicron wave may be subsiding in South Africa, but something strange is afoot. Some 22.6 per cent of those hospitalised there with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are fully vaccinated against the the virus.

Of the 7,826 adults hospitalised as of January 14, 2022, 5,731 are not vaccinated, 1,774 are fully vaccinated and 321 are partially vaccinated.

South Africa has fully vaccinated just 27 per cent of its population till now while 5.1 per cent have been partially vaccinated, according to the database Our World in Data.

A closer look at province-wise data reveals that Gauteng — the epicentre of the omicron outbreak — has vaccinated more than any other region at 8,045,219 shots administered as of January 16 according to the national department of health.

In comparison, Western Cape has administered 4,580,367 shots till January 16, Kwazulu-Natal has administered 4,422,269 shots, Eastern Cape has administered 3,228,009 shots, Limpopo has done 2,891,330, North West has done 1,775,931, Mpumalanga and Free State have done 1,694,338 and 1,667,145 respectively.

Northern Cape — the largest but most sparsely populated province — has administered the least number of shots — at just 598,402.

A look at data from the 661 patients admitted to the intensive care shows a similar trend. The unvaccinated population dominates here as well, at 60 per cent (396) while the partially vaccinated population is the least, at 5.6 per cent (37).

Of those hospitalised, 34.5 per cent (228) have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. Moreover, the database also revealed more women than men were hospitalised.

Those above the age of 60 had the highest hospitalisation rate, with 60 per cent of them unvaccinated.

In India too?

This trend is being recorded in several parts of India as well. According to data collected by Pune Municipal Corporation, “the number of those who require hospitalisation, ICU beds or ventilators is almost proportionate irrespective of the vaccination status,” the Hindustan Times reported.

Another report, in The Times of India, had a similar finding.

Some 11 of the 16 patients admitted to Nehru Hospital Extension, under the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while the rest had not received a single dose.

Of the 71 admissions at the Government Medical School and Hospital in Chandigarh, 31 are fully vaccinated, seven are partially vaccinated while 24 have not received even one dose.

Here, of the seven patients on oxygen inhalation, four are fully vaccinated while two are on ventilator support – where one is a non-vaccinated infant.

Mumbai’s Seven Hills Hospital paints a similar picture, where 73 per cent of those admitted are fully vaccinated, according to an earlier report in The Indian Express.

The new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is considerably different from its predecessors. It is now known that omicron is not only extremely infectious but can also cause breakthrough infections as it evades immunity.

While it seems that the severity of disease with omicron is reduced as compared to delta, reduced efficacy of the vaccine accentuates the need for a booster shot.

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