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Survey report on dialysis patients of India

The study published in the reputed international Nephrology Journal, Kidney International Reports, finally bridges the gap between speculation and scientific fact.

IANS | New Delhi |

According to the latest study conducted by NephroPlus, in the first wave of the corona, 14,573 dialysis patients were studied. Out of the number infected with COVID-19, 99% were hospitalised for an average of 12 days and the mortality rate stood at 23%. Besides this alarming figure, the ripple effect on dialysis patients not infected with COVID-19 is also massive, according to the report. Government take-over and conversion of dialysis centres to COVID centres also greatly affected treatment and discouraged patients from attending dialysis sessions. This resulted in an increase in mortality among the dialysis population within the period from 15% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

The study published in the reputed international Nephrology Journal, Kidney International Reports, finally bridges the gap between speculation and scientific fact. It also brings to bear the magnitude and severity of COVID-19, especially on patients undergoing dialysis. NephroPlus also studied vaccination and the rate of infections, hospitalisations, and mortality among vaccinated patients across India, with findings showing that vaccines are truly effective against COVID-19.

The study further sampled 17,662 patients in the second wave. 1,111 or 6.2% of the screened patients were infected with COVID-19 and staggering mortality of 32.76% was observed amongst these patients. This is far greater than mortality recorded in 2019 within the same period. Age is another important variable that comes to bear in the study. The mean age of COVID-infected people was 53.63, with 45% of all infected persons above the age of 55.

It is a well-known and established fact that COVID-19 has higher mortality among older people and those with other health conditions. However, there has been very little research to contextualize this observation with a keen focus on patients suffering from kidney failure. Hence, policymakers and analysts have had to rely on speculations, mere observations and reports from health institutions around the world.

According to the Principal Investigator, Dr Vivekanand Jha, the study showed that infections, hospitalizations, and mortality were all significantly reduced among people who had taken at least one dose of the vaccine. “We found that those patients on dialysis who had taken even one dose of the vaccine had as much as 33% reduced risk of getting COVID infection compared to those who were not vaccinated. More notable was the halving of the risk of death, even if they got COVID-19,” he said.

Speaking further, Dr Jha who is also the Immediate Past President of the International Society of Nephrology, said, “This study provides a nationwide snapshot of the health effects of the pandemic in this vulnerable population who did not have the choice of isolation or social distancing and needed to come to their dialysis centres regularly even during the peak of the pandemic. We found that COVID infection among patients on dialysis was 20-fold greater than that reported in the general population when adjusted for age and sex. While it was 8.7% among dialysis patients during the study period, the infection among the general population stood at 0.44% during the same time period”.

The study is also a strong statement for doubters and anti-vaccine proponents to understand how important COVID vaccines are in the fight against this pandemic. The COVID vaccine reluctance that is seen among many individuals who do not believe in the existence of the virus or the safety of the vaccines is another major problem. As Kamal D Shah, Co-Founder, NephroPlus and a co-author of the study says, “It is very important for Dialysis Patients to know that they have a high risk of contracting this lethal virus and die if they don’t take the vaccine. That is what our study shows.”

“We’re the first organisation to actually conduct such wide-scale studies to determine how dialysis patients respond to COVID-19 and how well they’re able to fare if infected,” he added.