Seniors were prioritized early in the U.S. vaccination campaign — and those efforts have paid off, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Between winter 2020 and spring 2021, the death rate for adults over the age of 65 fell by 84 percent.
Older adults are also much less likely to become infected with COVID or visit the hospital from the disease.
“We were able to see the critical contribution of vaccination coverage in reducing COVID cases, serious illness and death,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said of the study at a news conference on Tuesday.
COVID death rates among U.S. seniors fell 84% from pre-vaccine winter 2020 to post-vaccine spring 2021, a new CDC report shows. Pictured: An elderly man who wears receives a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in Kingston, Pennsylvania, May 2020
COVID cases and emergency room visits fell more for seniors than younger adults – thanks to vaccination
Seniors had far fewer hospital admissions and deaths from COVID in the spring than during the fall/winter wave
Seniors were one of the first groups of Americans to qualify for vaccination — along with health professionals and nursing home residents — because older adults are more vulnerable to COVID.
Adults over 65 make up 80 percent of COVID deaths in the country, despite making up just 16 percent of the U.S. population.
Seniors are more vulnerable to severe COVID and death because they are likely to have weaker immune systems and medical conditions that can increase the severity of the disease, such as heart disease and kidney disease.
The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all highly effective at lowering these risks – making severe COVID and death extremely unlikely for those vaccinated.
The US vaccine rollout started slowly in December 2020, but picked up in January 2021. By February 6, a quarter of seniors had been vaccinated with at least one dose.
By March 3, half of the seniors had received at least one dose. And by the end of the CDC’s analysis period, May 1, 82 percent had received at least one dose.
As of June 7, 86 percent of seniors have received at least one dose and 76 percent have been fully vaccinated.
The CDC researchers examined how well these vaccines worked by looking at four critical metrics: COVID cases, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths.
They determined the rates for three age groups: younger adults (aged 18 to 49), middle-aged adults (aged 50 to 64), and seniors (over age 65).
Next, the researchers compared the COVID rates for seniors with the corresponding rates for younger adults — and compared the rates before and after the vaccination campaign.
Half of U.S. seniors had received at least one shot by March 3 — by June 7, 86 percent of seniors had received at least one shot
Fewer than 20,000 Americans are now hospitalized with COVID, compared to 124,000 at the height of the winter wave
All COVID rates have dropped significantly from the winter outbreak, pre-vaccination campaign, to the spring. But for seniors, the decline was much stronger.
From that pre-vaccination period (November 29 to December 12, 2020) to the spring period (April 18 to May 1, 2021), the COVID death rate for seniors went from 31 weekly deaths for every 100,000 people — to just five weekly deaths for every 100,000 people. .
This represents an 84 percent decrease in deaths for seniors and a 66 percent decrease in the death rate — a senior’s risk of death compared to younger adults.
Rates also fell for cases, emergency room visits, and hospitalizations.
Seniors were 79 percent less likely to get infected, 77 percent less likely to visit an emergency room, and 78 percent less likely to be hospitalized with COVID in the spring compared to the pre-vaccine winter.
“We were able to see the critical contribution of vaccination coverage in reducing COVID cases, serious illness and death, especially among those over 65,” Walensky said.
Walensky stressed the need to continue vaccinations, as did the researchers behind the study.
Daily vaccinations in the US peaked in April at 3.4 million injections per day – now the number is closer to 500,000 injections per day.
Thirteen states have met President Biden’s July 4 target of 70 percent of adults on at least one dose. Other states are much further behind.
Populations that remain unvaccinated will be vulnerable to infection from the dangerous, more contagious varieties now spreading in the US
The Delta variant — first identified in India — now makes up six percent of sequenced cases in the US, said Dr. Anthony Fauci Tuesday.
Vaccinating the remaining seniors who have not yet received an injection — along with other eligible adults and teens — will protect the US from another wave.