Health Dpt estimates vaccines prevented 10,000 covid deaths in Catalonia

Unvaccinated twice as likely to end up in hospital and four times more likely to be admitted to intensive care

3 min
Infermeres vaccinating the Barcelona Fair while doing the act of recognition to professionals involved in the first year of vaccination campaign against covid

BarcelonaOne year after Josefa Pérez received the first vaccine against coronavirus at the Feixa Llarga nursing home in l'Hospitalet de Llobregat, more than 6,200,000 Catalans have followed in her footsteps. After 12 months of titanic effort, health workers in Catalonia have administered more than 13,400,000 doses which, according to the Health Department's calculations, have reduced the number of infections, hospitalisations, admissions to intensive care units and, above all, deaths. One of the main differences between the nine months of the pandemic before the vaccines and this past year has been the decrease in deaths, according to the Department of Health, which estimates that vaccines have prevented 10,000 deaths in Catalonia.

In the toughest weeks of the first wave deaths were counted by their thousands. Between March 7 last year (when the first fatal cases attributable to the virus were detected) and December 31, 2020, a total of 17,467 people died due to covid. This year, by contrast, there was a total of 6,986 deaths. "It has been the most important challenge in recent history in terms of public health, a complex and successful process, modulated according to the arrival of the doses, the demand and the groups that had to be vaccinated, a long-distance race for health workers and for the mass vaccination points", stressed the Secretary of Public Health, Carmen Cabezas, during the event to pay homage to the professionals involved in the vaccination campaign at Barcelona Fair.

While the event was held, hundreds of people continued to queue outside and dozens of professionals administered new doses inside. Two nurses and an administrative –Lourdes Carrés, coordinator of Barcelona Fair vaccination point; Sandra Peixà, in charge of Mas Iglesias vaccination point in Reus, and Leire Martínez, planning technician for vaccination points in the North Metropolitan area– have remembered the "pride", the "sacrifice" and the "implication" of the group. Both in good times, such as at the beginning of vaccination, as in the most difficult, such as episodes of "tension" with users who decided to get vaccinated as a result of covid pass requirements, and especially due to the blow that the emergence of the Omicron variant has dealt. "It's a difficult feeling to digest, because we thought the worst was over. A month ago we were about to close Fira and now we have made it bigger. We are tired, but happy," summed up Carrés.

The Department of Health has also made a projection of the effectiveness of vaccines in other aspects: according to Cabezas, they "have prevented between 300,000 and 400,000 infections" and "between 60,000 and 80,000 hospitalisations", part of which, "between 10,000 and 13,000 patients", would have ended up in ICU. According to the department's latest study, people over the age of 12 who have not yet received any shots against the virus are twice as likely to be hospitalised and four times more likely to be admitted to ICU. The danger increases exponentially with age: those over 50 without any doses are three times more likely to be hospitalised than those who have received the full schedule. For those over 70 who have not been vaccinated, the risk is six times higher and, in addition, they are 19 times more likely to enter ICU if infected compared to those who have received a booster.

The ravages of Omicron

But the challenge continues. In recent weeks both Cabezas and Health minister Josep Maria Argimon, have stressed that the department will continue to give "top priority" to vaccination to combat the ravages of the Omicron variant. In addition, it will keep a close eye on the effect the Christmas holidays may have on the increase in infections, despite the restrictions, against which nightclubs and bars have appealed to Catalonia's High Court. The closest precedent is the December long weekend, since when the number of patients in ICUs has doubled.

The number of cases is still increasing. Between 17 and 23 December – the last week for which data is available – there have been 68,325 new cases confirmed with a PCR or antigen test. There are currently 1,457 people in hospital with the virus, 399 of whom are in ICU.