SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern pose a higher risk for hospitalisation and intensive care admission
Since the discovery of SARS-CoV-2, three variants of concern (VOC), first identified in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), and Brazil (P.1), have been associated with higher transmissibility and severity of disease, with potential implications for acquired immunity or the effectiveness of current vaccines.
A study coordinated by ECDC together with seven EU countries – Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, and Portugal – analysed data on the three VOC reported by the collaborating countries, and the research shows a higher risk for hospitalisation and intensive care admission.
The analysis of 19 995 VOC and 3 348 non-VOC cases suggests that the VOC pose a higher risk for developing severe diseases. Compared to cases infected with a non-VOC virus, the risk for hospitalisation in B.1.1.7 cases was 1.7 times higher, while in B.1.351 it was 3.6 times higher and for P.1 it was 2.6 times higher.
This study also showed an increased risk of being admitted to intensive care by 2.3, 3.3 and 2.2 times higher for people infected by B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1 respectively, compared to non-VOC cases.
The study was conducted by analysing data between weeks 38/2020 and 10/2021 and included information on sex, age, being a healthcare worker or not, having pre-existing conditions, hospital and intensive care admission, and the outcome of the infection (survived or died).
The findings underline the increased risk for severe disease associated with VOC, and further emphasise the necessity to rapidly reach high levels of vaccine coverage together with continued adherence to public health measures to reduce SARS-CoV-2 incidence and severe cases.