Sunday, May 16

Why the median age of France’s most seriously ill Covid patients is getting younger

So does this mean that the virus has changed and is now affecting younger people?

No, experts say, the difference is largely due to vaccination, but it creates some very specific problems for hospitals already under pressure.

Speaking on February 25, Health Minister Olivier Véran said: “The average age of patients admitted to the hospital and of patients with severe forms in the emergency room or intensive care unit […] it is declining an average of 6 or 7 years, that is, patients in intensive care seem to be advancing towards an average age of about 55 years (from the previous 63).

“It does not mean that the virus is more serious in the young, it means that there are fewer very old people sick from vaccination and the fact that they are protected.

READ ALSO Is the launch of the vaccine in France already having an effect on deaths from Covid?

The head of geriatric care at Nice University Hospital, where the number of cases is particularly high, said that this trend can also be seen locally, where the average age of ICU patients is now under 60 years.

Olivier Guérin told the French television channel BFM: “The profile has evolved, we can see it among patients admitted to intensive care. The average age is just under 60 in Nice, and this is not just a problem for our older citizens, but for the general population. “

Vaccination in France has focused heavily on those considered most vulnerable to the most severe forms of Covid: those over the age of 75 and those with serious underlying health problems.

Vaccines have now been extended to the age group 50 to 74, but of the 4 million people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the vast majority are over 75 years old.

Like this graph by French data scientist Guillaume Rozier, founder of the CovidTracker site, shows, the rates of hospitalization of those over 80 years have experienced a sharp drop since the vaccination program.

However, while this is obviously good news for those most vulnerable to severe forms of Covid and provides hope for the future of the vaccine program, the changing age profile presents its own problems for hospitals.

The general trends show a fall in the total number of hospitalizations, but an increase in the number of patients in intensive care.

And this, according to epidemiologist Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, is directly related to the age profile of patients.

He said: “We are vaccinating the elderly with vaccines that are effective against the ‘English variant’, so we should see a decrease in hospitalizations in people over 75 years of age.

“But younger people can overcrowd hospitals, they are often put into intensive care for longer periods, so there can be pressure on hospitals.”

In summary, younger Covid patients with no underlying health problems must be quite ill before being admitted to the hospital, while older patients with a variety of health problems are more likely to be admitted to the hospital for your follow-up.

Therefore, patients admitted to the hospital are more likely to need intensive care.

Flauhaut explained in a Twitter thread about changing the patient’s profile: “Covid is not more serious in young people. But if you are an older person, you will be hospitalized to compensate for diabetes, for example. In young people, the most serious cases are those who are hospitalized and admitted to intensive care. They are not the same type, there will be fewer elderly people and their forms will be less severe ”.

Younger patients are also less likely to die from the virus than older ones, but they tend to spend more time in intensive care, putting more pressure on the healthcare system.

Across France, intensive care occupancy stands at 77.5 per cent, but in areas with a high number of cases, intensive care units are full, causing Nice hospitals to relocate to patients out of the area, while non-emergency operations are underway in the Paris region. cancelled.

Flauhaut added that Italy was seeing the beginning of a ‘third wave’ of cases, along with countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic.

In France, the total number of cases has remained practically stable since mid-December, but in recent weeks several areas have experienced a sharp increase in cases and pressure on intensive care units.

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