Covid France: Pressure mounts on hospitals; most patients unvaccinated

Hospitals across the country are seeing a rise in admissions and entries into intensive care units, with a marked shift to significantly younger patients compared to 2020

2 August 2021
Patients in hospital beds. Covid France: Pressure mounts on hospitals; most patients unvaccinated

Patients going into hospital currently are on average younger than last year, and are mainly unvaccinated Pic: Pirke / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

Pressure on hospitals in France is growing as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise. Figures show that patients entering intensive care are much younger than in previous waves, and most are not vaccinated.

The most recent figures from the health body Santé publique France (August 1) show that there were 3,531 new hospitalisations in the last seven days, and 746 new admissions to intensive care in the same time. 

There are now more than 7,581 patients in hospital, including 312 new patients in the past 24 hours. This is up from 6,843 last Sunday (July 25).

There were 1,137 patients in intensive care yesterday, including 69 new admissions in 24 hours. Cases dropped below the 1,000 threshold on Thursday (July 29), before rising again slowly by Sunday.

There were 19,600 new cases recorded nationwide on Sunday, down from the 23,471 reported on Saturday, but up from the 16,167 reported last Sunday. The positivity rate of tests remains stable at 4.3%.

 

Majority of Covid hospital patients not vaccinated

Unvaccinated people represent 85% of hospital admissions according to a study by the research and statistics bureau la direction de la Recherche, des Études, de l'Évaluation et des Statistiques (DREES) published on July.

Hospital workers say this is borne out in their current patients.

One nurse at a hospital in Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales), told FranceInfo: “People hospitalised here are not vaccinated, and the average age under 60. Some of them are in their twenties.”

Professor Alain Mercat, head of intensive care at the Angers CHU, said that the most recent patient to be admitted there is “over 70 and not vaccinated”.

In Vendée and Loire-Atlantique (Pays de la Loire), most hospitalised patients are aged 40-65, and are often unvaccinated, immuno-compromised or obese.

The professor said: “There are some people who are vaccinated, for whom the immune response is less effective, such as for people who have had cancer. I hope that the fourth wave, which has started, will only be a small wave in intensive care units.”

At the Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris, the number of cases has “risen very quickly over the past few days”, said intensive care head Professor Bertrand Guidet.

He said: “The vast majority of new patients are not vaccinated. Or, they are people who respond badly to vaccination, such as people who are immuno-compromised, or people who have only had one injection so far.”

Professor Guidet has also noticed a significant drop in the patients’ age. He said: “Our youngest patient is 32, without any underlying conditions, and the oldest patients are under 70.”

He said that staff are exhausted and fear the onslaught of the fourth wave. 

He said: “We never thought that we would have to call staff back from their holidays. They have given so much over the past few months, it’s impossible.”

One intensive care worker from Marseille, Véronique, told FranceInfo: “I’m at the end of my tether. I love my job, but I fear I won’t hold out much longer. After the bars and restaurants reopened, we had some calm weeks, and then we went back up to one or two Covid-19 admissions per week.”

She said that there is a marked difference now, compared to summer 2020. There are currently 13 Covid patients in her intensive care unit now, compared to just one at the same time last year.

The youngest of her patients is 21, obese, and unvaccinated. The oldest is 63. She explained that most patients in intensive care now are between 40-50; whereas last year the average age was 75.

She said: “We are appalled to see patients arriving who didn’t want to get vaccinated, or who preferred to wait. We are dreading this fourth wave.”

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