Fewer than half of nursing home residents are up to date with their Covid vaccinations, according to official figures that could signal another deadly wave.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows just 46 percent had taken up the most recent offer by November 27, while uptake is just 23 percent for nursing home staff.
Age and underlying health conditions are two of the biggest risk factors for Covid, which made nursing homes a hotbed for the virus during the pandemic.
In another worrying sign, Covid hospitalizations among Americans over 70 have jumped by around a third in a week, and flu hospital rates are at their highest point in more than a decade.
It comes as New York City and Los Angeles officials begin urging residents to mask-up again to stop the spread of the ‘tripledemic’ of Covid, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Fewer than half of nursing home residents were up to date with their Covid shots as of November 27, per facility. Arizona has the lowest coverage per nursing home, with only 27 percent of residents up to date with Covid vaccines. South Dakota, on the other hand, has the highest — with 72 percent who have all their Covid shots
Hospitalizations of people over the age of 70 with the virus have jumped by more than 30 percent in a week. The seven-day average for the week ending December 2 and the average for the week ending November 25 saw a 30 percent increase
The seven-day average number of Covid hospital admissions among over-70s has risen from around 1,700 at the start of November to 2,500 last week.
For comparison, almost 8,000 seniors were being admitted for the virus every week in January 2022, at the peak of the Omicron wave.
A spike in deaths often follows a spike in hospitalizations.
Dr Eric Topol, head of Scripps Research Translational Institute, said the US is doing a ‘terrible job’ of protecting seniors.
People are not clear on what the vaccine can and can’t do, which is fueling hesitancy to get the shots, said Katie Smith Sloan, president of LeadingAge.
There is a false belief that if you catch Covid after having been vaccinated, then the shot has failed, but this is not the case, she said.
What it does do is ‘prevent serious illness and hospitalization and death’.
There is also an unwarranted hesitance among doctors to prescribe the Pfizer antiviral pill Paxlovid quickly in the elderly, prompting five major medical societies to hold a web-based educational session for doctors.
The flagship Covid drug gained emergency approval in the US last December to treat high-risk patients — slashing their risk of death by 90 per cent.
Paxlovid must be taken as soon as possible to get the full benefits of the drug, ideally within five days of Covid symptoms starting.
Less of a threat is now felt by younger adults due to an easing of restrictions, more immunity in the general population and mixed messages about whether or not the pandemic is ‘over’.
The laid-back attitude has seeped into nursing homes, as their leaders said getting family consent for vaccinating residents has become trickier.
Some residents who can give their own consent are declining the shots.
The rate of hospital admissions is increasing across all age groups, but the rise is seen more acutely in senior citizens, leading to the fear that more elderly people will die this winter
Like hospitalizations, deaths are also on the rise. The number of weekly deaths for the week ending December 7 was 2,981. The first week of November, it was 2,463. Both figures are still significantly lower than the second week of January this year, when the number of weekly deaths was 23,366
Could COVID hold key to curing cancer? Virus’ notorious spike protein kills hard-to-treat lung tumors in lab studies
The virus has claimed the lives of six million people and caused unprecedented global disruption — but Covid might actually hold clues to curing cancer.
In lab studies, a modified version of Covid’s spike protein killed the most treatment-resistant and deadliest form of lung cancer.
The spike protein is the unique part of Covid that is used to infect people as it is the structure that binds to human cells in the first instance.
It could also infect and kill lung cancer cells, as when combined with other cells, the protein can set in motion the process of cells dying.
The early finding does not mean people with cancer would benefit from catching Covid — in fact patients with the disease are often immuno-compromised and therefore at a higher risk of serious illness and death from the virus.
Cissy Sanders of Austin, Texas, whose 73-year-old mother is in a nursing home, was told by staff that they could not find a vaccinator.
No booster clinic was scheduled, leaving Ms Sanders forced to make her own provisions to get her mother the latest shot.
Dr Topol said that booster rates among seniors are ‘pathetically low’ and hospitals across the country are seeing a ‘pretty alarming’ influx of senior patients.
In California and New York, hospitalizations for seniors with Covid-19 have already surpassed those during spring and summer Omicron waves, he said.
Pathologist Dr Wesley Long’s hospital in Texas has also seen a recent increase in senior admissions, but thankfully not in the ICU.
Dr Long said his staff are promoting the booster ‘every chance we get’, but they do not give it to people hospitalized with Covid-19, who are generally told to wait three months after being infected to get it.
The new combination booster shot, which targets both Omicron and the original Coronavirus, provides protection against one of the main Omicron variants pushing up cases lately: BQ.1.1, which is particularly good at escaping immunity.
Deaths, like hospitalizations, are also now rising, with the ultimate worry that more seniors will die.
Last spring and summer, death rates declined overall as more people gained protection from vaccination and prior infection. But the share of Covid-19–related deaths for the oldest old — adults 85 and older, who make up two percent of the population — grew to 40 percent.
Over the course of the pandemic, one in five Covid deaths were among those who were in a long-term care facility.
Dr Walid Michelen, chief medical officer for seven nonprofit nursing homes operated by the Archdiocese of New York, said: ‘We’re going to get a new variant, and who knows how aggressive that variant is going to be? That keeps me up at night.’
Overall, Covid has caused more than one million deaths in the US, and total cases are nearing one hundred million.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk