Science & Technology

The painfully simple reason Hong Kong saw one of the highest COVID death rates

Health care workers wearing personal protective equipment transport the body of a deceased patient onto a hearse outside the mortuary at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Hong Kong reported more than 55,000 cases on Wednesday, its hospitals are inundated, and the city's morgues are nearly full.
Enlarge / Well being care staff sporting private protecting tools transport the physique of a deceased affected person onto a hearse exterior the mortuary on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Hong Kong reported greater than 55,000 instances on Wednesday, its hospitals are inundated, and the town’s morgues are almost full.

For a lot of the pandemic, China stored the coronavirus at bay. The nation adopted an aggressive COVID-Zero plan, rigorously figuring out, containing, and tracing instances to stop the viral unfold. It appeared to work remarkably effectively—till the arrival of the ultratransmissible omicron variant.

The seemingly uncontainable virus is now exploding in China, smashing information every day and laying naked a tragic fault in China’s COVID insurance policies: the nation’s most weak—older folks—are among the many least protected by vaccination. As such, loss of life charges are sure to soar.

This has already performed out in Hong Kong, which noticed its personal towering omicron wave between January and March. In its wake was one of many highest loss of life charges the world has seen amid the pandemic. In a research printed Friday by the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, the US CDC partnered with the CDC China for a postmortem on the lethal spike. The evaluation highlighted the deadly flaw when neglecting to vaccinate older folks.

As of late December 2021, about 67 % of vaccine-eligible Hong Kong residents had been vaccinated with at the least one dose. About 64 % had two doses, and simply 5 % had boosters. However the numbers went downhill with age. Of individuals ages 60 and up, solely 52 % had one dose or extra. For these ages 70 to 79, solely 48 % had at the least one. And for these ages 80 and above, a mere 20 % had at the least one dose.

On January 6, officers in Hong Kong detected the town’s first cluster of omicron instances, sparking an outbreak that peaked March 4. By March 21, officers had recorded a complete of 1,049,959 instances and 5,906 COVID-19–related deaths. The mortality charge was 38-per-million folks, one of many highest on this planet.

Lethal mistake

Of the 5,906 COVID-19 deaths in the course of the omicron wave, 96 % had been amongst folks ages 60 and above. Total, evaluating loss of life charges with folks underneath age 30, folks 60 and up had been 253 instances extra prone to die, and folks 80 and up had been 946 instances extra prone to die. Of the folks 60 and up who died, 70 % (3,970 of 5,655) had been unvaccinated, and a further 18 % (1,023 of 5,655) had solely gotten one vaccine dose. Total, unvaccinated folks ages 60 and up had been 21 instances extra prone to die than folks within the age group who had at the least two doses.

It is unclear why comparatively few older adults in Hong Kong and elsewhere in China bought vaccinated. The CDC authors of the evaluation famous {that a} June 2021 survey in Hong Kong discovered that 57 % of individuals had been hesitant about or immune to COVID-19 vaccines. “The dynamic COVID-Zero technique, profitable till the emergence of the omicron variant, may need resulted in additional complacency, notably amongst older individuals,” the authors speculated.

They famous that because the omicron wave started, vaccination amongst older adults has elevated “considerably.” As of March 21, vaccination amongst folks ages 60 to 69 rose from 65 % to 81 %; in these ages 70 to 79, vaccination rose from 48 % to 69 %; and amongst these 80 and above, vaccination rose from 20 % to 39 %. Nonetheless, these numbers are low in comparison with these within the US and Europe. And on mainland China, solely about half of these aged 80 and above have been totally vaccinated, in response to knowledge from March.

As omicron surges in Shanghai, the evaluation supplies a transparent name to motion. “This report underscores that vaccination reduces COVID-19 mortality charges in older grownup populations and calls consideration to the significance of monitoring age-specific vaccination protection, figuring out disparities in age-specific vaccination charges, and addressing these protection gaps,” US CDC wrote in an announcement.

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