The United States has since loosened Covid restrictions in light of broad immunization efforts. So, while there has been another increase in Covid cases in recent months, the amount is only a fraction of previous surges over the years. This time, though, senior citizens are among the most affected.
Linda Stewart, 76, expressed concern about what Covid would do to her and her husband, given their age and immunity. And the anxiety rises amid a season of increasing respiratory infections. The event has been dubbed a tripledemic, a season in which three major respiratory illnesses attack most of the population.
The instances are driven by an increase in interstate travel due to the Christmas season, which begins on Thanksgiving. According to a recent census, older adults account for most hospitalizations this season, and the numbers are growing by the day.
Since October, the number of older adults hospitalized with Covid-19 or other associated respiratory disorders has increased. When the epidemic visited the United States in 2020, the number of seniors hospitalized for the sickness tripled. This implies that the number of older persons seeking medical attention is higher now than when the epidemic was at its peak.
Since the epidemic began, the number of seniors hospitalized has fluctuated, declining and growing in unusual ways. Data reveal, however, that hospitalization among people 65 and older is continuously greater than in other age groups.
“Right now, we have an immunity wall built up against the Omicron family – between shots and prior infections and combinations thereof – that seems to be keeping younger folks in pretty good stead. But the immune systems of people of advanced age are not as strong,” explained Dr. Eric Topol from Scripps Research.
Topol refers to the growing number of afflicted older individuals as the “senior wave.” The newest wave also has a significant impact on immunocompromised younger persons. Topol claims that the new Covid strains are more resistant to people’s built immunity to the virus and that Paxlovid may have contributed to the surge in afflicted older persons.
“It all points to waning immunity. If more seniors had their booster, the effect would be minimal,” he said.
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Booster for senior citizens
Stewart states that she is using personal meds to assist her in avoiding the virus’s worst consequences. She claims that getting vaccinated and having booster injections relaxes her and ensures she will be safe from the devastating effects of Covid-19.
“I’m paying attention to the fact that it’s picking up, so I’m a little bit more careful than I was, say, six weeks ago. With the pickup, I haven’t reverted to how I was handling it a couple of years ago, but I’m more aware of who I’m around and maybe wearing my mask a little bit more than I used to,” she said.
“That was the whole idea of being so proactive with all these vaccines. There was a very good chance that yeah, you might get sick, but you wouldn’t get as sick as someone who didn’t get all their shots and there was a really good chance you wouldn’t end up in the hospital. So that really gave me a sense of security in some ways that even if I did get it, it wouldn’t be really bad,” Stewart added.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, barely one-third of people 65 and older had updated booster injections, which should be a reason for alarm among health professionals.
“It’s very, very concerning. There’s a sizable number of people who actually got previous boosters who have not gotten this one and I worry that there’s confusion, there’s misinformation. So to seniors – and to everyone – I say: if you have not been boosted, go get boosted,” said Dr. Preeti Malani from the University of Michigan Health.
“The truth is that, really, anyone can get this. But the older you are, the more likely you are to have severe symptoms, the more likely you are to be hospitalized, and the more likely you are to die,” Malani added.
According to experts, the method of infection is the same across all age groups. On the other hand, senior folks would suffer the most from being infected with the virus. In most situations, the younger generation spreads the virus to the elderly.
“Seniors are the most at risk, but we bring it to them. A thing unique to older adults is that many are grandparents, and many provide childcare for their grandchildren. So they sometimes get infected from their grandkids, who may also be going to school or daycare,” said Malani.
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Infecting the community
According to a recent survey, many occurrences of spread among older adults occur within nursing homes and other communal settings. Furthermore, nursing homes become more prone to viruses and other viral infections when winter approaches.
“We all would have hoped we would have a vaccine that prevents transmission. Unfortunately, we don’t have a vaccine that does that, but it does reduce transmission, and it does reduce severe outcomes,” explained Janet Hamilton, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists executive director.
“But really, any individuals that come in contact with high-risk groups need to be the primary focus for getting vaccinated,” Hamilton added.