Dec 13, 2021 - Health
Millions of America's seniors are vulnerable to Omicron
Only about half of nursing home residents have received a COVID booster shot — an ominous statistic as Omicron rapidly spreads around the world.
Why it matters: Experts recommended booster shots — especially for this vulnerable population — even before the emergence of Omicron. But preliminary data shows that two doses of Pfizer's vaccine isn't very effective against the new variant, although three is.
The big picture: Less than half of eligible adults 65 and older — 44% — had received a booster shot as of shortly before Thanksgiving, according to CDC data released Friday.
- There was wide variation by race and ethnicity, with white Americans more likely to have gotten a booster than most people of color.
- There was also significant variability based on vaccine type. Eligible seniors who originally received J&J's one-shot vaccine were much less likely to have gotten a booster shot than Pfizer and Moderna recipients.
- Only 17% of eligible J&J recipients had been boosted as of Nov. 19.
The bottom line: Millions of unboosted seniors, even those who are fully vaccinated, are vulnerable to breakthrough infections as Omicron cases spike.
- It's still not clear how well two doses of Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines — or one dose of J&J's — protect recipients against severe disease, although experts expect the vaccines' effectiveness against severe disease to remain stronger for longer than their effectiveness against infection.