As more groups of people are included in the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccines, rates of obesity are playing role in assessing who gets their shot next following health and front-line workers and the elderly. According to a recent report by the World Obesity Federation, obesity and weight-related illnesses are the second-greatest predictors of hospitalization among people infected with COVID-19.
Old age continues to be the leading risk factor in hospitalization and death from coronavirus, but according to NPR, a body mass index of 30 or more has been added to many states’ list of qualifying medical conditions to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In southern states where the obesity rates are greatest, the vast numbers of people who are eligible for a shot may quickly overwhelm current inventory and distribution efforts.
Obesity has long been a serious health concern with 42 percent of Americans considered obese and 2 in 3 adults weighing more than is believed to be healthy. The U.S. is not alone in the toll high obesity rates are having on COVID-19 outcomes; countries with high obesity like Britain, Italy, Mexico and Brazil also have among the highest number of deaths. Researchers have found that Africa and Asia, with low obesity, have fewer COVID deaths than in Latin, European and U.S. populations.
Obesity can lead to many health problems, including heart disease, increased risk for stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. But even without comorbidities, carrying extra weight can also make it more difficult to breathe and for doctors to intubate patients infected with coronavirus struggling with infected lungs.
To learn more about when you are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, check in frequently with your local health unit. In the U.S., vaccines are being delivered straight to pharmacies for distribution and most have an online portal to register. In Canada, the federal government expects to have everyone vaccinated by the end of September — early doses have gone to front-line healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents and people over the age of 80.