UAE Covid vaccine: Get jabs before surgeries, say docs

Dubai - Getting jab before the surgery could help avoid post-operative deaths linked to virus, study finds.

By Saman Haziq

Published: Thu 25 Mar 2021, 7:34 PM

Last updated: Sat 27 Mar 2021, 7:06 AM

A team of over 40 experts from 13 centres across the UAE have revealed that patients waiting for elective surgery should get Covid-19 vaccines ahead of the general population.

The team of experts were part of one of the largest study conducted on patients undergoing surgery that showed that between 0.6 per cent and 1.6 per cent of patients develop Covid-19 infection after elective surgery.

Getting vaccinated before the surgery could potentially help avoid thousands of post-operative deaths linked to the virus, according to a new study funded by the National Institute for Health Research, UK.

According to the study, patients who develop Covid-19 infection are at between four - and eight-fold increased risk of death in the 30 days following surgery. For example, if patients aged 70 years and over undergoing cancer surgery would usually have a 2.8 per cent mortality rate, this increases to 18.6 per cent if they develop Covid-19 infection.

The COVIDSurg Collaborative international team of researchers, led by experts at the University of Birmingham, has published its findings in the British Journal of Surgery and the European Journal of Surgery, after studying data for 141,582 patients from across 1,667 hospitals in 116 countries - including Australia, Brazil, China, India, UAE, UK and USA - creating the world’s largest ever international study on surgery.

The UAE team was headed by Dr Sattar Alshryda, paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital; and Dr Hayder Al Saadi, trauma and spine surgeon at Rashid Hospital.

Calling it a timely study, Dr Sattar Alshryda explained: “The study came at the right time as the UAE government has recently announced free Covid-19 vaccinations for all residents if 16 or older. The recommendation of the study is available for patients should they wish to be vaccinated before surgery.”

Dr Hayder Al Saadi added: “This collaboration brought motivated colleagues from across the UAE with various skills to contribute to this landmark study. This group of experts have decided to build on this collaboration under a new name ‘United Arab Emirates Trauma and Orthopaedic Research Champions (U-TORCH). The purpose is to foster a nationwide, high quality research across the UAE.”

Based on the high risks that surgical patients face, scientists calculate that vaccination of surgical patients is more likely to prevent Covid-19 related deaths than vaccines given to the population at large – particularly among the over-70s and those undergoing surgery for cancer. For example, whereas 1,840 people aged 70 years and over in the general population need to be vaccinated to save one life over one year, this figure is only 351 in patients aged 70 years and over having cancer surgery.

Overall, the scientists estimate that global prioritisation of pre-operative vaccination for elective patients could prevent an additional 58,687 Covid-19-related deaths in one year.

This could be particularly important for low and middle-income countries where mitigation measures such as nasal swab screening and Covid-free surgical pathways, which can reduce the risk of complications related to the virus, are unlikely to be universally implemented.

Co-lead author Aneel Bhangu, from the University of Birmingham in the UAE, said: “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 Dr Dmitri Nepogodiev, from the University of Birmingham, commented: “Restarting elective surgery is a global priority. Over 15,000 surgeons and anaesthetists from across 116 countries came together to contribute to this study, making it the largest ever scientific collaboration. It’s crucial that policy makers use the data we have collected to support a safe restart to elective surgery; COVID vaccination should be prioritised for elective surgery patients ahead of the general population.”

During the first wave of the pandemic, up to 70 per cent 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, ongoing disruption is likely to continue throughout 2021, particularly in the event of countries experiencing further waves of COVID-19. Vaccination is also likely to decrease post-operative pulmonary complications - reducing intensive care use and overall healthcare costs.

AFP file photo
AFP file photo

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