Some have seized on ICU figures in NSW to suggest vaccinations aren’t working. But they are wrong and this graph shows why.
Ever since NSW authorities revealed half of the patients in intensive care were vaccinated, some have seized on this information to suggest the jabs don’t work.
In fact, the figures show the opposite.
Basically it comes down to the fact that an overwhelmingly number of people have been vaccinated: At least 95 per cent have had at least one dose in NSW and 93 per cent have had two doses.
This makes it more likely that anyone admitted to intensive care – whether that is because they were in a serious car accident or for complications during childbirth – will have been vaccinated, simply because most people are.
Authorities are currently not separating cases in ICU between those who are sick due to Covid, from those who are in there for another reason and also happen to have Covid.
But even with this bias, the statistics still show the overwhelming benefit of vaccination.
To put it into perspective, we can look at the raw numbers.
In NSW 6.2 million people aged over 16 have had at least one vaccine dose as of Tuesday, January 11.
Only 319,118 have not been vaccinated.
Now let’s look at the ICU numbers. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says around half of those in intensive care are unvaccinated. There were 182 people were in ICU according to Thursday’s figures.
If half of these were vaccinated then 91 out of 6.2 million vaccinated people were in ICU, making up 0.001 per cent of the vaccinated population.
This also means 91 out of 319,118 unvaccinated people were in intensive care, making up 0.3 per cent of the unvaccinated population.
I know which odds look better to me.
But if you still can’t wrap your head around the figures, the graph below may help make it clear.
It converts the statistic to a figure per 100,000 people that makes it easier to visualise.
For every 100,000 vaccinated people, 1.5 people are in ICU.
In contrast, for every 100,000 unvaccinated people, 28.5 people are in ICU.
Basically you are almost 20 times more likely to be in ICU if you are unvaccinated than if you have been jabbed.
Deakin University epidemiologist Professor Catherine Bennett said the emergence of Omicron infections had made it easier for Covid to spread in vaccinated people, as the vaccines didn’t provide quite the same protection against this variant as others.
“If you are more than three months out from your vaccination, it provides very little protection – but you are still less likely to have serious illness or to be in ICU,” she said.
It was a very different story with the Delta variant.
Back in December, when Delta was still the dominant strain in Australia, there were no vaccinated people in ICU in Victoria on December 31. All of the 54 cases in intensive care were unvaccinated.
“So that’s as striking as it could be,” Prof Bennett said.
This was also at a time where more than 90 per cent of the state’s adult population had been vaccinated. Around 94.5 per cent of Victorians aged 12 and over had received at least one vaccine dose and 92.8 per cent had received two doses.
Prof Bennett said the true impact of vaccination on NSW cases was harder to see now because high rates of vaccination meant some people being treated in ICU would likely have incidental mild or asymptomatic Covid infections.
“If someone is in ICU for heart problems, is that due to Covid or not?” she said.
Unfortunately already overrun hospitals say they don’t have time to look at every case and assess whether someone is in ICU because of Covid, or if they are there for another reason and also just happen to have Covid.
“It’s what everyone wants to know but it’s really hard for them to do administratively,” she said.
If the figures could be made clear, it would almost certainly improve the figures for vaccination even more.
However, even with the figures that are available, there is no doubt that vaccination does make a difference and is working to keep people out of ICU.