Americans 65 and older died at higher rates during this winter's omicron wave than last year, The New York Times reported.
COVID-19 killed members of the age group at a higher rate despite strong levels of vaccination among older people, the Times reported Tuesday.
The outlet said the virus preyed on long delays to get vaccine shots and the variant's ability to skirt immune defenses.
Nearly as many Americans 65 and older died in four months of the omicron surge as did in six months of the delta variant wave.
Omicron was considered milder than delta, which, for any one person, tended to cause more severe illness.
"This is not simply a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Andrew Stokes, an assistant professor in global health at Boston University told the Times. "There’s still exceptionally high risk among older adults, even those with primary vaccine series."
Although COVID-19 deaths always have been concentrated in older people, this year’s numbers have been skewed toward the 65-and-up demographic more than at any point since vaccines became available.
Biden administration health officials in recent weeks have encouraged everyone 50 and older to get a second booster and introduced new models of distributing antiviral pills, the Times reported.
Booster campaigns around the country, however, have remained listless and disorganized, older people and their doctors told the Times.
Many people 65 and older do not drive or get online, and have difficulty working through the massive healthcare system to receive potentially lifesaving antivirals.
Hospital admission rates among people 70 and older in the Northeast have climbed to one-third of the winter omicron wave’s peak.
"I think we are going to see the death rates rising," Dr. Sharon Inouye, a geriatrician and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told the Times. "It is going to become more and more risky for older adults as their immunity wanes."
The COVID States Project recently estimated that among people 65 and older, 13% were unvaccinated, 3% had a single Moderna or Pfizer shot, and 14% were vaccinated but not boosted.
Overall deaths had fallen from the heights of the winter wave, partly because of growing levels of immunity from past infections, experts said.
The Times reported that among older people, so many of the most fragile were killed by COVID-19 during the winter that the virus had fewer targets in that age group.
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