(NEW YORK) — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults have borne the brunt of the deadly wrath of the virus.
Now, recently updated federal data shows that despite widespread vaccination among the elderly, virus death rates among older Americans reached near-record highs during the first omicron wave.
More than 90% of the elderly have been fully vaccinated, but about 30% of them have not yet received their first booster shot. To date, just under 10 million Americans age 65 and older have received their second booster, representing about 28.5% of those who had already received their first vaccine.
Even with generally high vaccination rates in older populations, nearly three-quarters of reported COVID-19 deaths in the United States were in people over 65.
Experts say the reason for the new surge may be due to a number of factors, including waning immunity, relatively low booster uptake from the primary vaccination series and general vulnerability to the virus within the group. Additionally, the magnitude of virus spread during the omicron wave was significantly higher compared to previous waves of the virus.
Although the number of virus-related deaths among Americans over the age of 75 has always been higher than all other age groups, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been some lulls.
As the virus receded in late June 2021 and the group’s vaccination rate increased, death rates for these older age groups were approaching levels comparable to those of younger people.
However, during the delta wave, at the end of 2021 and 2022, the disparities in mortality rates began to increase again with the most transmissible variant, which evaded vaccines better. They expanded further when the omicron wave hit the United States in the winter of 2021, an even more transmissible variant than delta.
In early January 2022, CDC death data — broken down by age group per 100,000 people — shows people over 75 had a COVID-19 death rate 136 times higher than that of older adults. from 18 to 29 years old. between the ages of 65 and 74 had a death rate from COVID-19 that was 45 times higher than that of people between the ages of 18 and 29.
Throughout the spring, overall death rates fell again, as the first wave of omicron receded, but as of mid-April, older Americans continue to see more deaths than younger populations.
In recent months, Hispanic Americans 75 and older have had a significantly higher per capita death rate than other demographic groups of the same age.
During omicron’s push in January, Hispanic Americans over the age of 75 were 2.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19, compared to white Americans and Asian Americans of the same age. They were also 1.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19, compared to their black counterparts, and 3.7 times more likely to die compared to their Native American/Alaskan Natives.
Last month, the CDC announced it was “strengthening” its recommendation for immunocompromised Americans over 12 and those over 50 getting their second booster.
“Only 38% of people aged 50 to 64 and 43% of people aged 65 and over have received a dose of the vaccine in the past six months. This leaves about 60% of older Americans without the protection they might need to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told a meeting of independent advisers. from the agency in May. “We know that immunity wanes over time, and we need to do everything we can now to protect the most vulnerable.”
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