Covid killed more senior citizens in Mumbai than any other age group: Study
On October 4, a 63-year-old retired businessman from Borivli, who spent eight days at the Seven Hills Hospital in Marol battling Covid-19, went into cardiac arrest. The businessman had hypertension and heart disease for which he was soon to undergo an angioplasty. He had taken the first shot of the vaccine in July and the second one was due this month when Covid-19 struck. He is one among the 10,387 senior citizens who have succumbed to Sars-CoV-2 since the start of the pandemic, and according to data provided to Hindustan Times by the civic body, also part of the age group that has seen the highest mortality.
In Mumbai, over half the Covid-19 deaths have been reported in senior citizens. According to data provided by the civic body, 51% of all deaths recorded from the start of the pandemic till October 10, 2021, have been in the age group of 61 to 80 years.
While 13.3% of the deaths were seen among those above the age of 80, nearly 37% of deaths were recorded among people between 20-60 years, which is largely the working age group.
An analysis carried out by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on mortality figures shows that senior citizens have remained the most vulnerable group throughout both waves of the pandemic.
Of the 16,149 deaths recorded in the city till October 10, the most number of deaths were seen in the 61 to 70 years age group (27.4%). The 71-80 age group recorded 23.6% of all deaths. Together, these two groups contributed to 51% of the city’s deaths.
“The advanced age and comorbid conditions are the main reasons why senior citizens have remained susceptible,” said Dr Rahul Pandit, intensive care specialist at Fortis Hospital and member of the state’s Covid-19 task force.
The civic data showed that a majority of the deceased across all age groups had diabetes and hypertension which led to severe symptoms of Covid-19 and made recovery difficult. Underlying diseases have also been linked to prolonged hospitalisation and oxygen requirement and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions according to doctors who have been treating Covid patients throughout the pandemic.
The civic body did not record the vaccination status of those who have died due to Covid-19, as the national vaccination programme began only at the start of this year, and was opened out to cover senior citizens starting March 1. Since then, Mumbai has achieved nearly 75% full vaccination coverage in senior citizens – the city has an estimated 1.10 million people who are above 60 years.
“But we must remember that Covid-19 has not gone. The infection is still lurking. While vaccination will provide a certain degree of protection, Covid appropriate behaviour is a must,” said Pandit. “Those who are vaccinated must not let their guards down.”
While the second wave has been receding and the daily number of infections in the city has been steady, medical experts have expressed concern about breakthrough infections and re-infections. Breakthrough infections are those that occur among people two weeks after completing the mandated full vaccination schedule. While many hospitals are individually collecting data, there is still limited data available on the overall incidence of breakthroughs and re-infections seen in Mumbai.
“Senior citizens and people with comorbidities may not have the same degree of protection from the vaccine compared to others,” said infectious disease specialist Dr Tanu Singhal from Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. “If one has symptoms, it’s best to immediately seek medical help and get tested even if they are fully vaccinated. New treatment options like the monoclonal antibodies can prevent severe disease if patients seek timely help,” she said.
Effect on children
Mortality figures among children have remained the lowest through the pandemic: 0.1% among those below 10 years, and 0.3% among 11- to 20-year-olds.
Experts said that these figures indicated that the decision to open schools was accurate.
“Parents should not be reluctant to send their children to schools,” said Singhal. “Adults are stepping out. Children are stepping out to play and going out with the adults. Thus, going to school will not present any additional risk. People must ensure that adults at home, mainly grandparents are vaccinated. Only children who have severe comorbid conditions should continue to stay at home [to stay safe],” she said.
Experts said the stay-at-home orders during the pandemic have resulted in mental health issues among children, and many are even reluctant to get back to a schedule. “They have to be gradually brought back into the schedule,” said Singhal.