Living with COVID: Week 11

Members | June 03, 2022 | by Dee Pekruhn, Jill Schumann

LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Calls feature brief segments called “Living with COVID” to promote the successful transition to ‘endemic management’ and the ‘next normal’ for individuals, organizations, and systems. We will cover developments in the news, research, and innovative practices that support our members in preparing for this next chapter of COVID living.

This Week’s Highlights:

Volume Twenty: Air Date 6.1.22. “Where Are We Now?”

So where are we with COVID this week? The coronavirus mutant that is now dominant in the United States (BA 2.12.1) is a member of the omicron family, but it spreads faster than its omicron predecessors, is good at escaping immunity, and might cause more serious disease.

This is because it combines properties of both omicron and delta, the nation’s dominant variant in the middle of last year. A genetic trait from the pandemic’s past, known as a “delta mutation,” appears to allow the virus “to escape pre-existing immunity from vaccination and prior infection, especially if you were infected in the omicron wave.

Booster shots can provide strong protection against the new mutants. In general, vaccines and prior infection can protect people from the worst outcomes of COVID-19. However, scientists expect the latest powerhouse mutants to spread quickly, since they are more transmissible than their predecessors. Cases are increasing, as are hospitalizations.

And we are seeing a return of severe cases in older people. During the first year of the pandemic, before vaccines were available, the vast majority of Covid-19 deaths -- more than 80% -- were among people age 65 and older. In 2021, the average age of people dying of Covid-19 shifted younger. Less than 60% of those who died in September were 65 or older. But 2022 has looked more like 2020. So far this year, about three-quarters of all Covid-19 deaths have been among seniors.

Studies have suggested that Covid-19 vaccine effectiveness wanes over time. CDC data found that getting boosted was 90% effective at preventing hospitalizations during a period when Omicron was the dominant variant. In comparison, getting two shots was only 57% effective when it had been at least six months past the second shot.

Most seniors completed their initial series more than a year ago now. Less than two-thirds of seniors have gotten a booster shot. The CDC now recommends a second booster shot for this age group and uptake is even lower. So, let’s continue to work on getting older adults the recommended boosters, especially in light of this current dominant variant.