Omicron boosters keep seniors out of the hospital, CDC says

The latest Omicron boosters are 84% effective at preventing seniors aged 65 and older from being hospitalized with Covid-19 compared to the unvaccinated, according to a study published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And seniors who received the Omicron booster shot had 73% more protection from hospitalizations than those who received only two or more doses of the original vaccines that weren’t updated to Omicron, according to the CDC.

The study was conducted from September to November when omicron BA.5 and the even more vulnerable variants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 were dominant. About 800 seniors with an average age of 76 years were included in the analysis.

In a larger study involving more than 15,000 adults 18 years and older, the omicron booster shot was 57% effective in preventing hospitalizations. Adults who received the booster shot had 38% additional protection compared to those who only received the original shots.

None of the studies looked at how well people were protected from hospitalization if they were vaccinated and had natural immunity to previous Covid infection.

A previous study by the CDC found that the boosters were less than 50% effective at preventing mild illness in most age groups. However, prominent scientists and public health experts said the vaccines’ effectiveness against hospitalization would almost certainly be higher.

US health officials have repeatedly called on anyone eligible to receive an Omicron booster shot before the holiday. However, the Government has been particularly focused on ensuring that more vulnerable populations such as older adults remain up to date on their Covid vaccines.

DR Ashish Jha, the head of the White House Covid task force, said most of the people currently dying from Covid are seniors who are not up to date on their vaccinations or are not receiving treatment if they have breakthrough infections.

“There are still too many older Americans who haven’t updated their immunity, who haven’t protected themselves,” Jha told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

The Biden administration is launching a campaign to increase immunizations in nursing homes, whose residents are among those most at risk for severe Covid. Less than 50% of nursing home residents have received the updated booster shot.

Overall, according to CDC data, only 35% of seniors received an Omicron booster shot, while 14% of those 5 years and older received the updated shot.

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