The researchers — nearly 25,000 surgeons from across the globe — estimate that global prioritisation of pre-operative vaccination for elective patients could prevent an additional 58,687 Covid-19-related deaths in one year.
Their assertion is based on analysis of data for 1,41,582 patients from across 1,667 hospitals in 116 countries, including India, Australia, Brazil, China, UAE, UK and USA.
The results of the analysis have been published in the British Journal of Surgery incorporating the European Journal of Surgery.
The surgeons point out that between 0.6% to 1.6% of patients contract Covid-19 infection after elective surgery. “Patients who contract the infection are four to eight times at risk of death in the 30 days following a surgery. For example, whereas patients aged 70 years and over undergoing cancer surgery would usually have a 2.8% mortality rate, this increases to 18.6% if they get Covid,” they add.
“Preoperative vaccination could support a safe re-start 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,” co-lead author Aneel Bhangu, from the University of Birmingham, said.
According to Dr Shilpa Sharma, a paediatric surgeon who led the study at All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, the findings of the study are very important for the judicious and efficacious use of the vaccine and prevention of hospital-acquired Covid infection.
“Being a paediatric surgeon who operates on newborns and little children, we have to take further appropriate measures as children have not yet been considered candidates for vaccination. This puts the onus on the parents to protect their children. We would like the mothers of children who need any surgical procedure to get vaccinated as they would be staying with their children in the hospital,” Sharma said.
During the first wave of the pandemic, up to 70% of elective surgeries were postponed, resulting in an estimated 28 million procedures being delayed or cancelled. Whilst surgery volumes have started to recover in many countries, the researchers state that ongoing disruption is likely to continue throughout 2021.