Approximately 80 percent of the fully vaccinated persons who have died from COVID-19-related complications, were also persons with other non-communicable diseases, Deputy Director of Health Services (DHS) Dr. Francis Morey explained this week.
Data from the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) revealed that diabetics which account for 36 percent of the deaths among the fully vaccinated are the highest cause, followed by Chronic Renal Failure at 20 percent, HIV at 12.0 percent, obesity at 8.0 percent, and asthma at 4.0 percent, followed by 20 percent for which data is not available.
Among the partially vaccinated, Chronic Renal Failure, which accounts for 27.0 percent of the deaths was the leading cause followed by HIV Aids, and diabetes, both at 18.0 percent, and obesity and asthma at 9.0 percent. An average of 18 percent accounts for information that was not available to the health team.
“The concern is why we are seeing our vaccinated population being affected by and passing away due to COVID. COVID by itself is a phenomenon; it doesn’t spare any persons, it produces a severe storm of cytokines, which means it dysregulates your hormonal process, and most of these individuals that have an already compromised immune system it actually triplicates and produces a debacle of hormones and other mechanisms within our body that cannot be regulated by these individuals because of the severity of the disease. The same scenario goes in regards to individuals who are being fully vaccinated, where diabetics by itself is considered a disease that suppresses the autoimmune system or the response,” explained Morey.
The most recent detailed breakdown of data provided by MOHW shows that a noteworthy amount of vaccinated persons are dying from COVID-19, which health experts say tends to happen in the most vulnerable population and those with weakened immune system who have an average age range of 65 and over.
According to Morey, since the start of the pandemic, the country has recorded a total of 449 deaths, which represents a 1.93 % fatality rate. Data from April 1st, 2021 to October 12th have also shown that the country has experienced a total of 122 deaths, with 59 of that number representing females, while the remaining 63 are males. The majority of the deaths occurred in the Belize District (50), Orange Walk (27), and Cayo (21), respectively. As it relates to the age range of the deceased, 52 of those individuals who died were over the age of 65. Health experts, however, are keeping a close eye on the age group of 40-44 which represented the third highest percentage of deaths at 13.
Morey explained, “In regards to the relationship with the deaths as of April 1st to today, we currently have 11 of those individuals who have had the first dose of their vaccine. We have 18 of them being fully vaccinated and to which 93 of these individuals were not vaccinated and who have passed away due to COVID-19, hence the realization that we must continue to support the vaccination process as requested and supported by the Ministry of Health.”
According to Dr. Morey, other risk factors are also at play including age and underlying health issues, which has been a concern for health officials. Morey explained that associated comorbidities that have been present in those who are partially vaccinated. He pointed out that Non-Communicable Diseases in Belize have historically been the leading cause of death in the country, hence the reason why most of the persons who are affected by the NCDs, primarily diabetes, chronic renal failure, high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, cancer, and HIV aids, are contributing to the high mortality rate that we are currently seeing in our population.
Morey stressed that in Belize only about 25 percent of known diabetic patients are controlled and are on medication, meaning that the remaining percentage are not taking their medication and with the advent of COVID they are more at risk. That coupled with the fact that a majority of these households and families are currently facing social-economic challenges associated with the pandemic and might be unable to access their health care facilities and even purchase medication.
Also of importance to note is that the Ministry of Health is reporting that only about 11% of the entire hypertension population is being controlled meaning that they are on medication. Something that Morey says is of concern to health officials going forward, not only due to COVID but the risk it poses for further deaths if these individuals are not controlled. Morey also pointed to the fact that with 18 months into the pandemic a person’s high blood pressure can easily be triggered by other outside factors, which then places them at a higher risk.