Although COVID-19 vaccines can reduce the need for intensive care unit admission in COVID-19, their effect on outcomes in critical illness remains unclear. We evaluated outcomes in vaccinated patients admitted to the ICU with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections and the association between vaccination and booster status on clinical outcomes.
Setting and Patients:
All patients were admitted to an ICU between January 2021 (after vaccination was available) and July 2022 with a diagnosis of COVID-19 based on a SARS-CoV-2 polymerase chain reaction test in Alberta, Canada.
The propensity-matched primary outcome of all-cause in-hospital mortality was compared between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients, and vaccinated patients were stratified by booster dosing. Secondary outcomes were mechanical ventilation (MV) duration ICU length of stay (LOS).
The study included 3,293 patients: 743 (22.6%) were fully vaccinated (54.6% with booster), 166 (5.0%) were partially vaccinated, and 2,384 (72.4%) were unvaccinated. Unvaccinated patients were more likely to require invasive MV (78.4% vs 68.2%), vasopressor use (71.1% vs 66.6%), and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (2.1% vs 0.5%). In a propensity-matched analysis, in-hospital mortality was similar (31.8% vs 34.0%, adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.25; 95% CI, 0.97–1.61), but median duration MV (7.6 vs 4.7 d; p < 0.001) and ICU LOS (6.6 vs 5.2 d; p < 0.001) were longer in unvaccinated compared to fully vaccinated patients. Among vaccinated patients, greater than or equal to 1 booster had lower in-hospital mortality (25.5% vs 40.9%; adjusted OR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.0.36–0.68) and duration of MV (3.8 vs 5.6 d; p = 0.025).
Nearly one in four patients admitted to the ICU with COVID-19 after widespread COVID-19 vaccine availability represented a vaccine-breakthrough case. Mortality risk remains substantial in vaccinated patients and similar between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients after the onset of critical illness. However, COVID-19 vaccination is associated with reduced ICU resource utilization and booster dosing may increase survivability from COVID-19-related critical illness.