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Mind the Gap. Age-shifts in burden of infection are helping to soften the damage to health in NSW from COVID-19 Delta variant

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In the previous post the Pundit pondered a possible light at the end of the nasty New South Wales 2021 COVID-19 tunnel:

Steady predictable trend of improvement in the odds of staying out of hospital in Sydney

Hopefully this partial decoupling of weekly new hospitalisation numbers from weekly numbers of new infections noted in that post will continue.

In this current post we ponder possible mechanisms for such encouraging uncoupling of severe illness from infection.

The young are doing the heavy lifting.

One possible explanation is already apparent from other publicised medical statistics for New South Wales.

The burden of infection is steadily shifting to younger age-groups, who are less susceptible to serious forms of disease.

Here are health reports graphs that document this.

(Bear with the Pundit on this. Although the graphs appear complex they are all that’s readily available on this at the moment. The Pundit’s in the process of finding ways of displaying the trends more directly. They are well worth scrutiny.)

Week 32 age-profile graph
Week 33 age-profile graph

Only the parts of these graphs labelled 8a (current wave) at the top of each panel are relevant to the message being communicated here. 

(Ignore the previous wave (8b) for the moment.)

Mind the Gaps.

The starting point for understanding these graphs is the black line.

This shows the age-profile of infection of expected if all ages bore the burden of disease equally, with infections in proportion to their numbers in the state’s population. 

If there are gaps between the red and blue bars and the black line, different age-groups are bearing an unequal burden of disease.

If the gaps change between week 32 (top panel) and week 33 (lower panel), the burden of infection for a given age is changing over time.

What the Pundit can see in the current wave while scrutinising in age-groups over 50 people are bearing relatively light burden of infection, and the gap indicating a lighter burden is getting bigger with time.

This is good news. The over-50s are now being shielded from the ICU and death.

Conversely, in the current wave for age-groups 19-30 years,  people  are bearing a heavier burden of infection, and that extra burden is growing from week 32 to week 33.

This is a remarkable set of events.

First of all, thank you, young people for doing the heavy lifting. 

Second, young people are less likely than the over-50s to need hospitalisation, so the medical workers should thank you also.

Finally shift of the burden shows there has already been a tangible public health benefit from deliberate public health effort to vaccinate first the older more vulnerable people, so lets thank the public health policy wonks too.

Hopefully we will soon start seeing infection numbers come down too.

The message for Victoria is, in the name of all that is good, learn from Sydney’s hard yards.

Go out and get vaccinated because it works, is really good for the whole community, and is the only way out of this mess.


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