Study finds COVID-19 hospitalizations higher in unvaccinated during omicron surge

A new study finds that while the omicron variant of the coronavirus surged over the past year, COVID-19 hospitalization rates were significantly higher in unvaccinated adults than in vaccinated and boosted adults.

The study by 41 public health researchers, published Thursday in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined 192,509 COVID-positive patients who stayed in 250 hospitals from Jan. 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022.

It found hospitalizations were 10.5 times higher in unvaccinated adults and 2.5 times higher in vaccinated adults with no booster dose — respectively — than in those who received a booster.

“Hospitalized vaccinated persons were older and more likely to have 3 or more underlying medical conditions and be long-term care facility residents compared with hospitalized unvaccinated persons,” the study reported.

According to the nationally representative study, vaccinated hospitalized patients with COVID-19 were 70 years old on average, compared to an average age of 58 for unvaccinated patients.

The study found that 77.8% of vaccinated patients hospitalized with omicron were likely to have three or more underlying medical conditions, compared to 51.6% of the unvaccinated.

Lead researcher Fiona Havers, a medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an email that the study should remind older Americans to protect themselves.

“This gives further support for adults ages 65 and older to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination to protect against severe illness and hospitalization,” Dr. Havers told The Washington Times.

The infectious disease specialist said even the fully vaccinated should make use of antiviral medications, improved indoor ventilation, COVID testing and face masks “to prevent hospitalizations in older adults and those with underlying medical conditions.”

Infectious disease specialist Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the study offers “further confirmation” that vaccines prevent “what matters most at this stage in the pandemic: hospitalization.”

Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said face masks remain the “best strategy” for older Americans to protect themselves until a new vaccine “targets omicron and its subvariants more precisely.”

“We have a population of the US that is still at risk of severe COVID, despite our best efforts,” Dr. Galiatsatos said.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

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