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Prioritising surgery inpatients for vaccinations may save lives, study suggests

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Tens of thousands of post-operative deaths could be avoided by ensuring patients are given coronavirus vaccines while waiting for elective surgery, a new study suggests.

People awaiting surgery around the globe should thus be prioritised for COVID-19 jabs ahead of other groups, according to the research, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Studying data for 141,582 patients from across 1,667 hospitals in 116 countries – including Australia, Brazil, China, India, UAE, the UK and the US, scientists found that between 0.6 and 1.6% of patients have developed coronavirus in the wake of elective surgery.

For patients who did contract COVID-19, their risk of death was four to eight times greater than typically seen in the 30 days after surgery.

Given the higher risks that surgical patients face, scientists calculate that vaccines are more likely to have a life-saving impact upon pre-operative patients – particularly the over-70s and cancer patients – than among the general population.

The researchers estimated that – in order to save one life in the course of a year – 351 people aged over 70 facing cancer surgery required vaccination. This figure rises to 1,840 among over-70s in general.

“Pre-operative vaccination could support a safe restart of elective surgery by significantly reducing the risk of Covid-19 complications in patients and preventing tens of thousands of Covid-19-related post-operative deaths,” said co-lead author Aneel Bhangu, from the University of Birmingham.

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Source: The Independent, 25 March 2021

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