Surgery patients should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, according to a new study the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences participated in.
Using data gathered by the COVIDSurg Collaborative, the study showed that surgical patients who contract COVID-19 are four to eight times more likely to die in the 30 days following surgery. This risk is especially pronounced in elderly individuals age 70 and older, with the mortality rate increasing from 2.8 percent to 18.6 for surgery patients.
Based on this data, the study’s authors concluded that vaccinating surgery patients will likely decrease COVID-related deaths. According to the study, vaccinating 351 surgery patients age 70 and older would result in saving one life over one year, compared to vaccinating 1,840 individuals age 70 and older who are not undergoing surgery.
“Surgical patients, particularly patients 70 years or older having cancer surgery, are a vulnerable group who are at increased risk of COVID-19 related death,” Emmanouil (Manos) Giorgakis, M.D., a transplant surgeon at UAMS and an assistant professor in the College of Medicine’s Division of Transplant Surgery who led UAMS’ participation in the study, said in a statement. “Preoperative vaccination can significantly reduce postoperative mortality. Vaccination is also likely to decrease postoperative pulmonary complications, reducing intensive care use and overall health care costs.”
The study authors advocated for focusing first on vaccinating elective surgery patients ahead of the general population, recommending that government implement policies to priority surgery patients for vaccination.