Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

Public still 'hugely underestimating' how much more dangerous COVID-19 is for the elderly

Americans are still "hugely underestimating" just how much more dangerous COVID-19 is for the elderly, David Wallace-Wells writes for New York

Data compiled throughout the course of the pandemic from various countries show that "all else being equal an unvaccinated 66-year-old is about 30 times more likely to die, given a confirmed case, than an unvaccinated 36-year-old." Even more drastically, an 85-year-old faces a fatality risk of more than 10,000 times the one faced by a 10-year-old children, Wallace-Wells writes.

He suggests that the age skew may be even more important to emphasize now in the wake of mass vaccinations. While the vaccines have "utterly transformed the shape of pandemic" and remain safe and effective — both in terms of preventing transmission and especially reducing the risk of severe disease — the vaccinated elderly still have a greater chance of dying from an infection than younger people, regardless of their vaccination status. British data, for instance, suggest a vaccinated 80-year-old has about the same mortality risk as an unvaccinated 50-year-old. And when there are breakthrough infections, the most severe cases overwhelmingly belong to older age groups. 

"Encouraging further vaccination remains by far the best tool we have in fighting the pandemic to an endgame détente," Wallace-Wells writes, but he adds that "we should also be clear along the way about the continuing risks to the vaccinated elderly and what might be done to protect them." Read the full piece at New York.