Image of Sameer S. Kadri, M.D., MS
Sameer S. Kadri, M.D., MS

The risk of death for COVID-19 is not only rare among the vaccinated, but also among those most at risk: adults aged 65 years and older with comorbidities or immunosuppression.

That’s according to a study published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Investigators analyzed data from 465 U.S. healthcare facilities, examining the prevalence of severe COVID-19 outcomes including respiratory failure, intensive care unit admission, or death. 

Among more than 1.2 million people who completed an initial vaccination series between Dec. 2020 and October 2021, these outcomes were rare. Severe outcomes occurred in 189 of these patients (1.5 per 10,000), and 36 of those patients died (0.3 deaths per 10,000), reported Sameer S. Kadri, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, and colleagues.

Risk factors for severe outcomes included age (65 years old or older); immunosuppression; and having other underlying conditions including diabetes, and chronic kidney, cardiac, pulmonary, neurologic and liver disease, they found.

All patients who had severe COVID-19 outcomes also had at least one of these top risk factors, and fully 78% of those who died had at least four risk factors.

Due to the timing of the vaccinations studied, the findings might not shed light on the risk from the omicron variant, the researchers noted. But the variant appears to cause less severe disease than the delta variant or its dominant predecessor, based on the experience of other countries with earlier omicron surges.

Approximately 70% of eligible adults in the United States have completed a primary COVID-19 vaccination series, the authors reported.

Full findings were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In related news:

Doubling pace of booster doses could save thousands of lives, report finds Analysts have estimated that bumping the daily pace of COVID-19 booster shots in December could have prevented approximately 41,000 deaths and more than 400,000 hospitalizations by May 2022, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund. Although the U.S. vaccination campaign already has prevented nearly 1.1 million deaths, the new variants and waning vaccine immunity “require sustained efforts,” the authors wrote. “Our findings highlight the urgent need to administer boosters as quickly as possible to everyone who is eligible.”