People with high deprivation more likely to be hospitalised with Covid, research suggests

Deprived people were more likely to contract the virus, according to public health consultant

People with higher levels of deprivation were more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19, a meeting has heard

People with higher levels of deprivation were more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19, but there was no association between affluence and ICU admission or mortality, research suggests.

Mr Declan McKeown, a consultant in public health medicine from the national health intelligence unit at the HSE, conducted a retrospective study of PCR-confirmed cases recorded between March 1st, 2020, and May 13th, 2021.

The cases were then analysed alongside the HP Deprivation Index, which looks at demographic profile, social class composition and labour market situation.

Mr McKeown found that across the age groups, and across three waves of the pandemic, the incidence of Covid-19 was higher in deprived groups compared with those in affluence.

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However, one exception is those in the 20- to 39-year-old age category, for which the reverse pattern was found.

Mr McKeown said a high proportion of this age group were healthcare workers with an increased occupational exposure to the virus and a requirement for serial testing, which could lead to a possible bias.

Overall, deprivation was only associated with hospitalisation, he said, with overall outcomes improving as the pandemic progressed.

“Deprivation was not consistently associated with poor outcomes in an Irish context,” he added.

Mr McKeown was speaking at the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland’s summer scientific meeting on Wednesday, which looked at lessons learned from the pandemic.

Speaking at the same meeting, Dr Mark McLoughlin, a senior medical officer for the Department of Public Health in Dublin, said there was a “disproportionately high incidence” of Covid-19 in the midlands in 2021, particularly affecting vulnerable groups.

Between December 10th, 2020, and March 18th, 2021, there were 44 outbreaks of the virus, totalling 527 cases, among Traveller communities in the midlands.

“Travellers also have a higher risk of both infection and severe disease relative to the general population,” Dr McLoughlin said.

Pop-up testing and vaccinations were put in place, however there was “limited effectiveness” in the testing.

There was, however, a “strong uptake” of vaccination in June and July, with 890 first-dose Pfizer vaccinations being delivered to vulnerable populations.

These included 529 Travellers, 184 foreign nationals, 21 homeless people and 10 Roma people.

On the impact of Covid-19 on waiting lists, Ian Darbey, of the national intelligence unit, said waiting lists will grow this year without intervention, adding that “missing” waiting list additions over the course of the pandemic are a “significant risk”.

The number of people waiting more than 12 months for an appointment will increase in 2022, he added.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times