As COVID-19 infections spike this winter, the Department of Health and Human Services is reporting an increase in daily hospital admissions for those 70 and older with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. In some states, hospitalization rates for seniors with COVID-19 have already surpassed those during spring and summer omicron spikes. Only 56% of nursing home residents in New Mexico received the latest booster.
In 2022, COVID-19 played a role in the deaths of more than 183,000 people over the age of 65, compared to almost 4,000 deaths from influenza, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The U.S. is still seeing about 400 deaths each day due to COVID-19.
“As a practicing doctor in nursing facilities and the hospital, I witness the heartache and suffering of my older patients and their families when they become severely ill from COVID-19. I compare it to wearing your seat belt when driving. The seat belt doesn’t prevent you from getting into a car accident, but it does help you from getting seriously injured. I encourage nursing home residents to get the bivalent booster. It offers the best protection against the virus we are seeing now,” said Thuan Ong, Comagine Health’s medical director and leading nursing home physician.
“Nursing home residents and their families are among the most at risk, so it’s critical they receive the bivalent booster. Older adults have the highest risk of severe infection, hospitalization and death from COVID-19 and the best way to reduce the chances of this is to get the latest COVID-19 booster,” he added.
The effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations decreases over time. Most patients are eligible to receive a booster if their last shot was at least two months ago and they have not already received the updated bivalent booster. The COVID-19 omicron-specific bivalent shot is a combination of half the original vaccine and half of a new vaccine that is specific for the omicron BA5 and BA4 subvariants. Because the COVID-19 virus continues to change and mutate, this vaccine is the best protection to prevent reinfections, severe disease and disability, hospitalizations and death.