96% patients on oxygensupport in Mumbai hospitals are unvaccinated: BMC chief

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Mumbai: An overwhelming majority of people with Covid-19 requiring oxygen support in Mumbai’s hospitals are unvaccinated, a top city official said, offering the first clues of who may now be at higher risk despite the variant itself showing signs of reduced virulence.

Doctors at city officials separately said the trends were largely being reflected at their facilities, and that most of those requiring additional support were unvaccinated people above the age of 50.

“Out of the around 1,900 Covid patients who were on oxygenated beds, around 96% are unvaccinated and only 4% are vaccinated,” Brihanmumbai Corporation (BMC) municipal commissioner Iqbal Chahal, citing data till January 6.

Dr Gautam Bhansali of the Bombay Hospital, who is also coordinator of all private hospitals in the city, said, “In case of hospital beds, both vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens are occupants, but on oxygen beds, the majority of patients are unvaccinated. The age group of such patients is normally above 40 to 50 years.”

“This shows that vaccination is very important for each and every citizen,” he added.

Infectious disease expert Dr Om Srivastava, who is also a member of the Covid-19 task force said that there is a definite increase in the number of unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people who were being hospitalised with Covid-19. “Many of these patients seem to have rushed to take the vaccine after the surge in cases started, perhaps battling the initial hesitancy towards vaccination,” said Srivastava. “We have not conducted a thorough analysis, but the uptick in such patients, even on oxygen support and ICUs is visible,” he said.

According to Srivastava, Omicron is largely affecting the upper respiratory area and patients suspected with Omicron may not require oxygen. While the presence of Omicron is confirmed by genome sequencing, some hospitals have started using the S-gene dropout parameter in the RT-PCR tests to indirectly indicate the variant causing the disease in the patient.

“My worry is about the possibility of joint infections with both Delta and Omicron variants due to repeated exposure that could be driving some number of patients towards severe disease. We don’t have genome sequencing data to establish this, but it definitely needs to be looked at,” he said.

BMC officials said they were confident that resources are adequate to deal with any surge in requirement.

“We may even have 100,000 Covid active patients in Mumbai. Our oxygen consumption is only 10 tonnes. Our production capacity is up to 200 tonnes a day. We have another 400 tonnes of oxygen in storage. In the third wave, we have to understand that positivity rate or cases will not be parameter with which to gauge the situation but hospitalisation rate. The occupation of oxygen and ICU beds along with the overall bed occupancy rate is to be gauged,” said an official, asking not to be named.

Chahal said 80% of the city’s Covid beds were as yet unoccupied and the situation will be reviewed if occupancy reached 50% in the coming days.

“Our experts from the Covid Taskforce have told me that in Mumbai may even go up to say 40,000 cases daily. This may or may not happen but we will come out comfortably out of this considering the cooperation from citizens,” he said.

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