COVID-19 vaccination is still crucial for older adults

Adults 65 and older have accounted for most COVID-19 hospitalizations in 2023, and comprise nearly 9 of 10 in-hospital deaths.

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COVID-19 is still a significant threat for older adults, says data from a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Collected between January and August of this year, the data show that U.S. adults 65 and older accounted for 62.9% of all hospitalizations related to COVID-19, and that just 23.5% of people in that age group had received the bivalent vaccine introduced last fall.

The group has accounted for 87.9% of in-hospital deaths tied to the virus over the eight-month span.

“COVID-19 has a huge impact on older communities. It's contributing to a lot of morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Thuan Ong, an associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “Very similar to how RSV or influenza still impacts older adults and certain populations who are immunocompromised, COVID-19 should be considered in a similar fashion.”

Ong often works in long-term care facilities and has seen firsthand how “incredibly susceptible” residents can be to viruses. He encourages people to get the new COVID-19 vaccine as prevention, and suggests that a conversation about risk can allay fears if an older friend or loved one expresses concern or hesitation toward vaccines. 

“I think it has a lot to do with not recognizing the risk that an individual is at. And that is part of a personal discussion that every single older adult needs to have with their healthcare provider and also with their family, as well.”

Download broadcast-ready soundbites with Ong discussing vaccination among older adults. 

UW Medicine