It would be too simple a calculation: Because significantly fewer people are currently dying from Covid-19 than at the beginning of the year and at the same time a majority of the over 80-year-olds are protected by a vaccination, there is no need to worry about the German health system despite the increasing number of new infections . Intensive care physicians have been warning for weeks that this conclusion is wrong. Nevertheless, there is still the assumption in many places: To the hospital because of Corona? That only affects the very old seniors. But now a large data analysis by the scientific institute of the health insurance company AOK (Wido) shows how the first and second waves also hit younger people hard.
Of the almost 52,000 patients included in the analysis who came to the hospital with Covid-19 by the end of November 2020, 18 percent did not survive the disease. In the age group between 60 and 69 years, 14 percent died, between 70 and 79 years the mortality rate was 23 percent. Overall, mortality fell slightly by three percentage points between the first and second waves. In part, this is due to the fact that 74 percent of the ventilated patients in the first wave were ventilated with a tube in the trachea from the start. In the second wave, this risky method was only used in 39 percent of cases. Some patients were also first ventilated non-invasively and only later intubated. Their share rose from nine to 21 percent.
On average, those treated were 67 years old. Two thirds of them – and an even larger proportion of those ventilated at 75 percent – were under 80 years of age. Most people of this age have not yet been vaccinated, which is why intensive care physicians fear that an unchecked third wave could lead to an overload in the hospitals. The number of intensive care patients with Covid-19 has been increasing significantly for several weeks. Many of them will wage a long battle against the virus and thus tie up the urgently needed capacities of staff and hospital beds.
“We have to take countermeasures very quickly and consistently”
Because even if Covid 19 disease leads to death more often in people over 80: significantly more younger people required intensive medical care and ventilation in the first and second wave. 22 percent of the people admitted to the hospital and infected with the virus had to be ventilated, while this only happened in 11 percent of the over 80-year-olds. In addition, patients up to 79 years of age require significantly longer treatment; they had to be ventilated on average for 14 to 16 days.
People over the age of 80 were often no longer in the condition to survive the complex treatment; they were ventilated for an average of ten days. Ten percent of the ventilated patients had to be treated for at least 73 days – two and a half months from admission to the hospital to discharge or death.
How exactly the slowly advancing vaccinations and new, more dangerous virus variants such as the mutant B.1.1.7, which is now dominant in Germany, will affect the situation in hospitals is not evident from the evaluations. However, a significant improvement in the numbers is not expected for the time being. That is why the chairman of the board of the AOK Federal Association, Martin Litsch, warned urgently before the third wave when the data analysis was presented: “We have to take countermeasures very quickly and consistently. I’m almost afraid it’s too late for that.”