(CNN) — Older adults have accounted for nearly two-thirds of Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States this year, posing “a continued public health threat,” says a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
From January through August, adults 65 and older accounted for about 63% of all Covid-19 hospitalizations, 61% of intensive care unit admissions and 88% of in-hospital deaths associated with Covid-19, according to the report published Friday by the CDC.
Most of those hospitalized older adults had underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disorders, and less than one-quarter – only 23.5% – had received the bivalent vaccine that was recommended at the time.
Covid-19 hospitalizations “continue to predominantly affect” adults 65 and older, and people in that age group “should reduce their risk for severe COVID-19 by receiving recommended COVID-19 vaccinations, adopting measures to reduce risk for contracting COVID-19, and seeking prompt outpatient antiviral treatment after a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers, from the CDC and other US institutions, analyzed data from the CDC’s Covid-19 Associated Hospitalization Surveillance Network (COVID-NET), taking a close look at hospitalization rates among people who got a positive Covid-19 test result during or within two weeks before hospitalization.
The data showed that from January through June, rates of Covid-19 hospitalizations among all adults declined but remained elevated among adults 65 and older.
Hospitalization rates among those older adults more than doubled in the summer, from 6.8 per 100,000 people in July to 16.4 per 100,000 in late August, the researchers found. During the week ending August 26, the rate among adults 65 and older was nine times as high as that of people 18 to 64 and 16 times as high as that of people younger than 18.
The researchers found that adults 65 and older accounted for 62.9% of Covid-19 hospitalizations from January through August, representing a one-third increase from the time between March 2020 and December 2022, when that age group accounted for 45.9% of hospitalizations.
The data also showed that about three-quarters – 76.5% – of the older adults who were hospitalized for Covid-19 from January through June had not received a dose of the bivalent Covid-19 vaccine that was recommended at the time, and 16% had not received any Covid-19 vaccination.
A newly updated Covid-19 vaccine is available this fall and recommended for everyone 6 months and older. But local health officials across the United States are concerned about many older adults not getting that shot as well as not getting vaccinated against flu or respiratory syncytial virus, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, who was not involved in the new CDC report.
This year marks the first time that the United States has vaccines available against all three of those respiratory illnesses: Covid-19, flu and RSV.
“As we head into this respiratory virus season even deeper, we’re most worried about the older people getting protected,” Freeman said. “For anyone with underlying health issues, all three vaccines can prevent severe illness, hospitalization or death.”
Even though the new CDC data focuses on adults 65 and older, the risks are even greater for ages 85 and older, said Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who was not involved in the new report.
“We’ve always known that the elderly as well as individuals with comorbidities are disproportionately affected; also, that males are more affected than females. So this is really consistent with a lot of information that we’ve seen previously,” Barouch said of the CDC report. “The elderly and people with comorbidities really should be encouraged to get the fall booster.”
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