Seniors at Risk for Severe Breakthrough COVID

Kids are back in school and despite mask mandates and vaccine requirements in many communities, the number of COVID-19 cases is once again rising, primarily among the unvaccinated.  But new research has found that although rare, the risk of a severe breakthrough infection is higher for seniors and people with underlying health conditions.  

According to a recent CNN Health article, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of 12,908 severe breakthrough cases of COVID-19 as of August 30 among fully vaccinated people that resulted in hospitalization or death.   Roughly 70 percent of these cases that resulted in hospitalization were among adults over the age of 65 – 87 percent of breakthrough cases resulting in death were also among adults 65 and older. 

A six-month study of 13 states showed that among adults hospitalized with COVID-19 between January and June 2021, only 4 percent of patients were fully vaccinated.  Unvaccinated adults hospitalized for COVID made up 87 percent of those hospitalized and unvaccinated adults are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized than fully vaccinated adults.  

Underlying health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune conditions increase the risk for hospitalization among vaccinated adults with breakthrough cases.  As more time passes since patients have been vaccinated and variants of COVID-19 emerge, the risk of breakthrough cases for vulnerable populations increases. 

With weakening immunity over time, high-risk groups including older adults are beginning to receive a third “booster” COVID-19 vaccine in many regions.  Until vulnerable adults are able to receive the third dose, researchers strongly support wearing masks indoors and social distancing.   The World Health Organization maintains that efforts should be made first to reach unvaccinated populations to help stop the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant. 

Check with your local Health Unit to determine if and when you may be eligible for a third COVID booster vaccine.  Don’t forget to schedule your regular seasonal flu vaccine – the CDC recommends that everyone should be vaccinated for the flu by the end of October.  September and October are good months to receive a flu vaccine that will provide protection throughout the winter months and flu season.