Christopher Labos: There’s more to COVID than the death rate

The goal of medicine is not only to save lives, but also to reduce the burden of disease and prevent disability. Vaccines do that too.

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If someone tries to convince you not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at some point, they might tell you that the death rate from this disease is so low that vaccination doesn’t matter. First, it should be pointed out that there have been more than 6 million officially reported COVID deaths worldwide, and estimates suggest that the vaccination campaign saved between 14 and 20 million lives. But the low death rate argument is flawed for another important reason that goes beyond these facts. He ignores that the goal of medicine is not only to save lives, but also to reduce the burden of disease and prevent disability. Fortunately, vaccines do that too.

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It’s easy to forget that one of the major issues regarding COVID-19 infection is the vascular side effects. Although the virus is a respiratory infection, it can also damage the heart, cause stroke and lead to blood clots. While some people just focus on mortality numbers, we have to remember that one can survive a bout with COVID-19 but end up with long-term complications. You can survive a stroke and end up with a permanent disability. You can survive a heart attack and end up with heart failure.

Most people seem to have underestimated the cardiac complications of COVID-19. While many have become obsessed with the issue of post-vaccination myocarditis, they have failed to realize that post-infection heart damage is orders of magnitude more common. In fact, post-vaccination myocarditis is extremely rare, usually mild, of short duration, and appears to have been largely confined to the group of young adult males and was possibly just a consequence of the shorter vaccination interval used. during the initial vaccination. It should be noted that there was no evidence of an excess risk of myocarditis in the pediatric trials.

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In fact, recent data from the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates that vaccination against COVID is likely protective in terms of heart attack and stroke. Korean researchers used the country’s national patient registry to analyze data from more than 200,000 patients who caught COVID during the study period from July 2020 to December 2021. Their analysis found that vaccination reduced the risk from being hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke to a major degree. In fact, the relative risk of hospitalization was less than half in the vaccinated group compared to the unvaccinated group. More interestingly, this benefit was consistent across multiple subgroups and held true among men and women, young and old, and those who had and did not have other pre-existing medical conditions.

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It’s easy to become complacent and think that COVID-19 is no worse than a cold. It is true that your individual risk of death or serious complication is relatively low. But small risks add up when applied to an entire population. Heart attacks and strokes, even non-fatal ones, strain the health care system, drain resources and can lead to long-term disability. The reduction in risk to the population from these findings is significant and should not be casually dismissed.

Many people are worried about the side effects of vaccination, when they should be more worried about the side effects of COVID infections. People need to worry less about heart-damaging vaccines when the virus is the greatest danger. In fact, this latest data shows us that vaccines reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke after infection. While most people will recover from a COVID infection, some won’t – and it makes sense to try to limit the chances of having a post-COVID heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, if you’re vaccinated, you’re less likely to get either.

Christopher Labos is a Montreal physician and co-host of the Body of Evidence podcast.

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