Only eight of the 97 Covid-positive people who died in Delhi’s hospitals between January 9 and 12 were fully vaccinated, and only 19 had got one jab of the vaccine, according to a new analysis by the government that underscores the vulnerability of the unvaccinated in the third national wave of cases fuelled by the Omicron variant of Sars-CoV-2.
The analysis pointed to three trends: a majority of the deaths were in unvaccinated people; people were at greater risk if they had serious comorbid illnesses like cancer and kidney disease; and most of the fatalities occurred in less than two days of hospital admission, suggesting people may be reaching critical care too late.
“According to the latest report of the death audit committee, which was recently reconstituted, the highest number of deaths due to Covid-19 are of those who were admitted due to a comorbidity or a serious disease. For hospital admissions, RT-PCR test is mandatory, so many critically ill patients came with other serious diseases and were found positive upon admission,” Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said.
“In this wave, those who do not have comorbid conditions, are vaccinated and are not elderly, are having only mild symptoms which is treatable at home,” he added.
According to data from the analysis, seen by HT, only 8.3% of the 97 dead had taken both doses of vaccines, while 19.6% had taken one shot. The remaining 70 had not taken any dose. A more detailed analysis of 34 patients who died in Delhi government hospitals and for whom comorbid conditions were known, only one had a single known comorbid condition – diabetes – while the remaining had a combination, which most commonly included kidney disease.
In the 37 patients who died in Delhi hospitals, for whom the date of admission and the date of test report was available, 25 were diagnosed Covid-positive either the same day or later. Of the 37 deaths, 22 took place the same day or the following day.
The new analysis mirrored similar findings from earlier – of the 46 who died between January 5 and 9, 76% were unvaccinated. In the 97 who died in the four days after that, 72% were unvaccinated.
“The number of hospitalisations as compared to new cases coming daily is currently under control. We are hopeful that this is the peak. The cases are also being detected more because we have increased testing. The existing health system in Delhi is in a good shape and we are fully prepared to deal with the most serious of situations,” Jain said.
While the death numbers are significantly lower than what was seen during the last wave of Covid-19 cases in the Capital, officials have said that they are looking into why some people appear to be reaching hospitals too late.
The trends are largely consistent with what has been seen elsewhere. Many of the deaths are in people whose Covid-19 diagnosis may be incidental — that is, they were confirmed to be infected only after they reached the hospital.
A senior health official said at present, 15,000 Covid-19 beds have been made operational. “The government can double the number of beds overnight if needed, but as the number of hospitalised patients is so less at present, the need to increase beds is not being considered immediately. The administration has the plans ready to activate 37,000 oxygenated beds overnight,” said the official.
About 30 Covid-19 patients are admitted in GTB hospital, where the total capacity is 750. Similarly, a total of 750 beds are available in Lok Nayak hospital but only 136 patients are admitted. “If needed, we can increase the number to 1,000 in both,” the official said.
Dr Nikhil Modi, consultant, pulmonology/ respiratory medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, said people are recovering even in three days. “So, even if someone is coming with a serious heart condition or any other disease, once the diagnosis is done, the treatment starts to respond almost immediately despite the patient being Covid-positive. They recover in days. In the hospitals, so far the situation is manageable. But, it is not that admissions are not happening. The numbers are slowly surging because daily cases are also increasing,” he said.