Covid vaccine will slow excess mortality but viral spread will continue
If the upcoming Covid-19 vaccines prove to work well on the elderly and medically frail, they will result in a sharp decrease in coronavirus mortality and hospitalization. But the first round of vaccination will have little impact on the spread of the virus, which means that the coronavirus measures are here to stay for a time yet, epidemiologists told broadcaster NOS.
The government plans to first vaccinate people over the age of 70 and medically frail people. They are at highest risk for the coronavirus. Healthcare workers who are in direct contact with Covid-19 patients will also be among the first in line.
According to RIVM data, 90 percent of all registered coronavirus deaths are in the age group 70 years and older. Almost half of all hospital admissions fall in this same age group. Of all the deaths under the age of 70, two thirds of patients had underlying conditions. So if the vaccines work well on these groups, the number of coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations is expected to fall sharply once vaccination starts.
"The big advantage is that the enormous stress will lessen in nursing homes and in older people and their families," Frits Rosendaal of the LUMC said to the broadcaster. "It protects the vulnerable, but that does not slow the epidemic." Nursing home residents don't play a major role in spreading the virus, he pointed out. "It is mainly young people and middle-aged people who transmit the virus to others."
Alma Tostmann of Radboudumc warned Netherlands residents to temper their expectations. "I want to prevent people from thinking that the danger has passed. Because if we do everything we want again, the virus can move to another part of society that is at risk of disease or death," she said. "Also in the slightly younger layer of the population, people have underlying diseases, there are long-term corona patients and people end up in intensive care."
Both experts agree that the first round of vaccination will be very profitable, if the vaccines turn out to work well on the elderly and medically vulnerable. It will mean a light at the end of the tunnel for healthcare workers and patients in non-Covid care. "The aim of the policy is to relieve the burden on hospitals and prevent illness and death as much as possible. That problem will not be solved immediately, but to a large extent if the vaccine works well," Tostmann said.