Opinion: Obese, elderly and immunocompromised still at risk of severe complications from COVID-19

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President Joe Biden and most of the nation’s elected officials seem to have moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic — at least those who aren’t still trying to peddle the nonsense that a virus that has killed 1.1 million Americans was either tantamount to the flu or a concoction of the media and Dr. Anthony Fauci. But COVID-19 continues to remain a serious threat to the millions of Americans who are elderly, obese or immunocompromised. Because many people in these situations have either not kept up with booster shots or never got vaccinated in the first place — and because the United States has a greater percentage of these groups than most other nations — the U.S. has the highest reported COVID-19 death rate of any affluent nation. While the COVID-19 death rate is heading down, other nations have seen quicker and sharper declines.

These facts alone show the obvious importance of a public health campaign to encourage those who are most at risk to protect themselves — starting with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says are the 33 percent of Americans 65 and older who never received a booster shot. As noted last month by Eric Topol — the local Scripps Research physician-scientist who has emerged during the pandemic as one of the nation’s top dispensers of informed common sense on COVID-19 — booster shots that were crafted to respond to a major recent virus variant “work especially well in the people who need it the most — seniors.” These boosters sharply reduced the incidence of hospitalizations and the number of emergency room and urgent care visits.

New variants may require further fine-tuning of boosters to increase their effectiveness. But drugmakers have risen to that challenge before and will do so again. Those at risk should keep up with their boosters — and if they are hesitant, they should talk to doctors and loved ones to feel better about it.

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