Older Vaccinated People At Higher Risk Of Contracting Severe COVID-19 Illness: Report

Even if older people are fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, they are still at risk of contracting the severe form of COVID-19. This is what more recent data on the prevalence of the disease is suggesting, and scientists are saying that this is not at all surprising.

Vaccination In Aging Population

Medical experts have been encouraging older people to get vaccinated ever since the first batch of vaccines became available to the public because the biological preparation can provide them protection from the deadly virus. People over 65 were known to be at a higher risk of contracting the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and the vaccines were said to be the only hope for them to evade the disease and its debilitating symptoms. 

However, it has now become clear that even if older people get fully vaccinated, they are still at risk of getting infected and even spreading the novel coronavirus, according to National Geographic. This is due to breakthrough infection or the instance when a vaccinated individual becomes sick of the same disease that the vaccine is designed to prevent. Not only that, they also appear to be at a greater risk of suffering the more severe form of COVID-19 despite the early promise of manufacturers that the vaccines can help protect the elderly from severe illness, which often results into hospitalization and even death. 

Latest Breakthrough Infection Data

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest report on COVID-19 cases, a staggering 67% of hospitalizations and 85% of deaths were reported among vaccinated people aged 65 and beyond. In its report, the public health agency maintained that the vaccines are still essential in putting the pandemic under control. The CDC also indicated that “no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing illness,” so the recently recorded breakthrough cases were already anticipated by medical experts. 

Interestingly, recent reports from media outlets have seemingly cast doubts on the effectivity of the vaccines, especially since data from Seattle, Washington and the United Kingdom suggest that older people face similar if not greater risks of contracting severe COVID-19 than unvaccinated children even if they are already fully vaccinated. In its report on the alarming issue, New York magazine’s Intelligencer news site pointed out the need to accept the fact that age plays a huge role when assessing an individual’s risk of dying from COVID-19, regardless if one has been vaccinated or not. 

The Need For Vaccine Boosters

University of Virginia immunologist William Petri explained to National Geographic that age is a “huge risk factor” amid the ongoing pandemic. “If you’re under 45, your chances of dying are almost nonexistent, and then it increases exponentially,” he added. This is one of the reasons why the U.S. prioritized giving the vaccines to older people in long-term care facilities when the vaccines were first rolled out. The same protocol is being followed now that the booster shots have become available. 

After the FDA authorized the booster shots from Pfizer in September, the CDC released its guidance on who are eligible for the first batch of the extra doses. The public health agency specifically indicated that people 65 years and above who have completed their main series of vaccination should be prioritized in the rollout, followed by people aged 18-64 who have underlying medical conditions. The booster jabs are expected to enhance the vaccine’s protection against SARS-CoV-2. Hence, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are also working on getting their booster doses approved for public release.

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