Individuals who are not vaccinated with pre-existing diabetes, heart artery disease, or high blood pressure had a 2- to 3-fold increased risk of death, investigators say.
Unvaccinated individuals who contract COVID-19 when they have pre-existing diabetes, high blood pressure, or major heart damage, are up to 9 times more likely to suffer serious outcomes, including admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), death, kidney problems and lung failure, according to combined evidence from 110 previous COVID-19 studies.
“These findings can help us identify unvaccinated individuals who are at a higher risk of worse outcomes, even without special tests. This is particularly relevant where health care resources are limited but the proportion of unvaccinated individuals remains high,” Sher May Ng of the Barts Health NHS Trust, said in a statement.
The study, which is published in Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, looked at almost 49,000 unvaccinated individuals in total and identified multiple predictors of more severe COVID-19 and worse outcomes for these individuals compared with vaccinated individuals.
Investigators found evidence showing that myocardial injury, known as heart muscle damage, at the time of admission to the hospital was associated with a 9-fold increase in the likelihood of death. Additionally, individuals who had pre-existing heart complications also had a higher chance of developing other complications from COVID-19, including acute kidney injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome, and they also had higher rates of ICU admission and invasive mechanical ventilation.
Furthermore, investigators found that unvaccinated individuals with pre-existing diabetes, heart artery disease, or high blood pressure had a 2- to 3-fold increased risk of death, and they also had up to a 2.5-fold increased risk of other COVID-19-related complications.
When comparing the 3 medical conditions, investigators found that individuals with diabetes were at the highest risk for developing severe lung failure. Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, these conditions were already known predictors of heart attacks and strokes.
“These findings present a strong case for these at-risk groups to be prioritized for vaccinations and other preventative measures. This is especially true in low- and middle-income countries, where the impact of cardiovascular disease is particularly high,” Ajay Gupta, MD, PhD, senior clinical lecturer at Queen Mary and an honorary consultant in clinical pharmacology and cardiovascular medicine, said in the statement.
Successful vaccination programs have reduced the economic and social burdens of COVID-19, as well as effectively prevented severe disease, according to the statement.
Accurate prediction of risk for severe disease and adverse outcomes of COVID-19 can help prioritize vaccinations for the highest-risk groups and help allow effective planning of economic and health policies, investigators said.
More than 70% of the United Kingdom population is fully vaccinated, but less than 15% of the population in low-income countries have received any dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the statement.
“In more developed countries, groups with cardiovascular risk factors in addition to other vulnerable groups could be selected for booster and annual vaccination programs, similar to the influenza vaccination program,” Gupta said.
Unvaccinated individuals with heart problems up to 9 times more likely to die or suffer serious complications from COVID-19. EurekAlert. News release. May 4, 2022. Accessed May 4, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/951664