The majority of people with COVID-19 admitted to intensive care units since Australia’s national vaccine rollout began were unvaccinated, new figures have revealed.
Led by Monash University, SPRINT-SARI is a hospital-based surveillance database that was set up to enable the real-time tracking and reporting of the sickest patients with COVID-19 in Australian hospitals and ICUs.
Its latest figures, recorded from when the national vaccine rollout began back in February, show that of the 574 people with COVID-19 who were admitted to ICUs, just 2% were fully vaccinated; 86% were unvaccinated; while 12% had received one dose.
Significantly, data shows that in recent weeks, younger Australians, including pregnant women, feature more prominently among people admitted to ICUs with COVID-19.
While younger people admitted to ICUs typically require less invasive treatment, likely due to fewer age-related comorbidities, researchers argue the emergence signals the need to shift the focus of vaccinations to these groups.
Professor Andrew Udy, an Intensive Care Clinician at Alfred Health and SPRINT-SARI Australia Co-Lead, said the results underscored the substantial benefit provided by vaccinations.
“But until greater coverage is obtained, our ICUs and frontline health workers will continue to be under strain, as we manage what is increasingly becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he warned.
“Our message is simple – if you can get vaccinated, do so.”
Allen Cheng, Professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said vaccination, contact tracing and continued broad community measures, such as masks, were the major tools at hand to control transmission.
“The shift in age of those admitted to ICUs is anticipated, given older Australians were prioritised during the early phases of rollout. These figures again underscore just how much protection vaccinations offer in terms of your likelihood of getting seriously unwell with COVID-19.”
Read the ANMF’s position statement on COVID-19 vaccination here