In the Omikron wave, the death rate of the elderly rose

Despite the high level of vaccination among the elderly, Covid was killed at a much higher rate this winter on the Omicron wave than last year, due to its long delays since the last shots and its ability to prevent immune defenses.

The death toll of older people this winter belied the relative smoothness of the Omicron variant. Nearly 65 Americans over the age of 65 were killed in four months of Omicron as in six months of the Delta wave, although the Delta variant, in one person’s case, caused more serious illnesses.

Although Covid’s overall per capita death rates have dropped, the elderly still have a huge share of them.

“This is not just a vaccine-free pandemic,” said Andrew Stokes, an assistant professor of global health at Boston University who studies the age patterns of Covid’s deaths. “There is still a high risk among older adults, as well as those with the first series of vaccines.”

Covid’s deaths, while always concentrated in the elderly, have skewed in the elderly in 2022 more than at any time since vaccines became available.

The pandemic change has increased pressure on the Biden administration to protect older Americans, and in recent weeks health officials have encouraged all those over the age of 50 to take a second promotion and introduce new models for distributing antiviral pills.

In most countries, however, the strengthening campaign has not organized anything and continues to disintegrate, the elderly and their doctors said. Patients, many of whom struggle to drive or network, often have to maneuver to pick up antivirals that can save lives through a labyrinthine health system.

Covid’s deaths in recent weeks have been close to the lowest pandemic levels, down from an average of 400 a day. But the mortality gap between the elderly and the young has widened: Middle-aged Americans, who suffered a large share of pandemic deaths in the summer and fall of last year, are now taking advantage of new population-based immunization stores as Covid’s deaths recur. people.

And the new wave of Omicron sub-variants could pose additional threats: While admissions in younger age groups have remained relatively low, admission rates among people over the age of 70 in the Northeast have risen to a third of the staggering peak of the winter Omicron wave.

“I think we’ll see the death rate go up,” Dr. Sharon Inouye, a geriatrician and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “It’s going to be more and more dangerous for older adults as they lose their immunity.”

Harold Thomas Jr., a 70-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn. The Covid States Project, an academic group, recently estimated that 13 percent of people over the age of 65 are not vaccinated, 3 percent have a single shot of Moderna or Pfizer, and another 14 percent are vaccinated but are not revived.

When the vaccines first arrived, Mr. Thomas said the state health department had made it “comfortable” for him to shoot at elderly people in his apartment community. But he did not know of any effort for booster doses. On the contrary, he was questioned by a state official as the availability of booster throws became available.

“The government wasn’t sure about the booster shot,” he said. “If they weren’t sure about it, and they’re the ones who released it, why would I take it?” Sir. Thomas said Covid recently killed one of his former bosses and hospitalized an older family friend.

Deaths have dropped from the height of the winter wave, in part because of the rising level of immunity from past infections, experts say. For older people, there is also a more serious reason: in the winter, Covid killed many of the most vulnerable Americans, where the virus has fewer targets in that age group.

But scientists warn that many older Americans remain sustainable. To protect them, geriatricians have called on nursing homes to arrange home vaccinations or order additional shootings.

In the long run, scientists said that politicians need to deal with the economic and medical ills that have plagued old non-white Americans in particular so that Covid will not continue to cut so much of their lives.

“I don’t think we need to treat early adult death as a way to end the pandemic,” said Dr. said Stokes. “There are still a lot of sensitive seniors – those who live with condition conditions or live in multi-generational homes – who are very vulnerable.”

This year’s Covid death pattern has revived the dynamics from 2020 – before the vaccines were introduced, when the virus killed older Americans at a significantly higher rate. At the onset of the pandemic, mortality rates rose steadily each additional year, Dr. Stokes and his collaborators found it in a recent study.

That changed last summer and fall during the Delta Rise. Older people were vaccinated faster than other groups: by November, the vaccination rate for Americans over 65 was about 20 percentage points higher than for 40-year-olds. And critically, older Americans recently received vaccines, leaving strong levels of residual protection.

As a result, older people were exposed to Covid at a lower rate than before vaccines became available. Among people over the age of 85, the death rate last fall was 75 percent lower than in the winter of 2020, Drs. The latest research by Stokes found this.

At the same time, the viruses were received by younger Americans and fewer vaccines, many of whom were personally returning to work. White mortality rates at the end of 30 years have more than tripled in the autumn of last year compared to the previous winter. The death rate for blacks in the same age group doubled.

The resurgence of Covid’s deaths was so significant that among Americans over the age of 80, overall deaths returned to pandemic levels in 2021, according to a study published online in February. The opposite was true for middle-aged Americans: life expectancy for this group, which had already fallen more than Europe in the same age range, fell even further in 2021.

“By 2021, you see the impact of the pandemic on mortality at a younger age,” said Ridhi Kashyap, the lead author of the study and an Oxford University demographer.

By the time he took the highly contagious Omicron variant, the researchers said more older Americans had spent a long time on Covid’s latest vaccine, weakening their immune defenses.

As of mid-May, a quarter of Americans over the age of 65 had not received their most recent vaccine dose in a year. And more than half of people in that age group have not been shot in the last six months.

The Omicron variant was better than previous versions of the virus to prevent those who were already weakening their immune defenses to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines against infections and more serious diseases. This was especially true for the elderly, whose immune systems first respond less aggressively to vaccines.

For some people, three doses of vaccine also seem to be less protective over time against hospital admissions associated with Omicron. A recent study in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine found this trend for people with weakened immune systems, a category that was most commonly included in older Americans. Sara Tartof, lead author of the study and an epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, said the study found that about 9 percent of people over the age of 65 were immunocompromised, compared to 2.5 percent of adults under the age of 50.

In the Omicron wave, Covid’s death rates were once again significantly higher for older Americans than for younger ones, Dr. said Stokes. The elderly also made up a huge part of the excessive deaths: the difference between the number of people who actually died and the number who could have been expected to die if the pandemic had never happened.

Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, found in a recent study that excessive deaths were more concentrated in people over the age of 65 than in the rising Omicron wave in the Delta. Overall, the study found that there were more over-deaths in Massachusetts in the first eight weeks of Omicron than during the 23-week period when Delta dominated.

As older people began to die at a higher rate, Covid’s deaths also included a higher proportion of people being vaccinated. In March, about 40 percent of people who died as a result of Covid were vaccinated, according to data analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fewer Americans have also been infected with the pandemic than younger ones, which has led to a lower level of natural immunity. In February, one-third of people over the age of 65 showed previous evidence of infection, compared with about two-thirds of adults under the age of 50.

Long-standing Covid cases do not prevent future infections, but people who are re-infected are less likely to become seriously ill.

Falling Covid measures in the winter, along with Omicron’s high transmissibility, left older people at greater risk, scientists said. It is unclear how their behavior has changed. A previous study by scientists at Marquette University suggested that Wisconsin seniors were once wearing masks at a higher rate than younger ones, a gap that disappeared by mid-2021.

More anti-virus pills are being given today, but it’s hard to know who is benefiting. Scientists said the rising winter in Covid’s death rates among older Americans called for a more urgent policy response.

Dr. Inouye, who arrived at Harvard Medical School, said she was waiting for a notification from her mother’s life support facility about the deployment of a second booster shot, even though staff reports were infected when the reports began. But nonetheless, the director of the facility said a second booster shot would be impossible without state guidance.

Eventually, her family had to arrange a trip to the pharmacy to get a second boost on her own.

“It seems now that the burden is placed entirely on the individual,” he said. “It’s not easy for you.”

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