Association Between Vaccination Status and Outcomes in Patients Admitted to the ICU with COVID-19

While the COVID-19 vaccines can reduce the likelihood of people with COVID-19 requiring admission to an intensive care unit (ICU), little is known about the effect of these vaccines on outcomes in patients with critical illness.

In a recently published study in Critical Care Medicine, researchers sought to examine how vaccination and booster status impact outcomes in patients already admitted to the ICU with serious severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections. The study population included 3,293 patients admitted to ICUs in Alberta, Canada with a COVID-19 diagnosis between January 2021 and July 2022. Of these patients, 743 were fully vaccinated, 166 were partially vaccinated, and 2,384 were unvaccinated.

The researchers found that, despite being younger and having fewer existing health conditions, unvaccinated patients were more likely to require critical care interventions, including invasive mechanical ventilation, vasopressor use, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Although the risk of death remains substantially high in both vaccinated and unvaccinated patients admitted to the ICU, vaccination for COVID-19 was linked to substantially lower ICU resource utilization. Furthermore, vaccination booster dosing showed the potential to increase survival for patients with COVID-19-related critical illness.

Dr Sean van Diepen states that “the results of this study add to existing literature by showing that COVID-19 vaccination is associated with improved outcomes even among patients with a serious breakthrough COVID-19 infection requiring an ICU admission.”

This research was co-authored by the CVC’s Drs. Sean van Diepen, Finlay McAlister, and Padma Kaul, along with Dr. Luan Manh Chu and Erik Youngson (The Alberta Strategy for Patient Oriented Research Support Unit, and Provincial Research Data Services, Alberta Health Services) and Dr. Sameer Kadri (National Institutes of Health Clinical Center).