Belgium’s vaccination effect: ‘sudden’ drop in deaths among over-85s 

Belgium’s vaccination effect: ‘sudden’ drop in deaths among over-85s 
Credit: Belga

The effect of Belgium’s vaccination campaign is becoming visible as the number of registered coronavirus deaths is decreasing strongly, almost exclusively due to the lower number of deaths among the over-85s.

While the infection and hospitalisation figures are continuing to rise, a 35% decrease in the number of deaths is almost exclusively due to the “sudden” and spectacular fall in the number of deaths among people in residential care centres, data shows.

Nearly all residents of the residential care centres have been vaccinated, and the effects are showing in the death rates, as graphs show that the proportion of deaths among people over 85 years old hovered around 55% for weeks, until it started to drop strongly about ten days ago.

“The sudden drop in the proportion of deaths in the 85+ age group can be explained by the vaccination effect,” said virologist Marc Van Ranst on Twitter, adding that “that is very good news!”

In Sciensano’s figures of the weekly average, the over-85s only accounted for 36% of total deaths, which is the same as in the 75-84 age group.

The sharp decline can also be seen in absolute figures, as an average of 10 deaths per day is being registered among the over-85s, compared to 63 on 1 December. The decline had already begun before the start of vaccinations, but the sharper drop since mid-February is clearly visible.

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The vaccination campaign in residential care centres started at the beginning of January, and most residents had received their first dose by the beginning of February.

After that first shot, residents were already partially protected, which was reflected in the falling hospital numbers of residents of residential care centres in recent weeks.

At the end of January, over 15% of all admitted patients in hospital came from residential care centres, at the moment, this is barely 5%.

Bart Mesuere, statistician at the University of Ghent, also indicated that he sees a clear trend in the decreasing figures. “Here we see a clear and impressive drop of 10-20 deaths per day in the 85+ age group that can be linked to the vaccination campaign,” he tweeted.

“So deploying our first scarce vaccines in this vulnerable group seems to have been a good and impactful choice.”

More than 25% of all 85-year-olds have now been at least partially vaccinated, and 23.11% have received both vaccinations with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to Sciensano’s data. This concerns almost all residents of the residential care centres.

From this week, the first inhabitants of service flats will also be vaccinated, which will further increase the proportion of vaccinated elderly people.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times

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