By Barrett White
Most seniors have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
While headlines may be discouraging, we cannot give up hope.
The Delta variant is restarting fear of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and over the last year and a half, guidelines have changed from “guidelines for everyone” to “guidelines for the vaccinated” and “guidelines for the unvaccinated” – which only further spreads more confusion.
Through this difficult time, it’s important that we keep in mind how far we’ve come. A safe and effective vaccine was developed and millions of doses have been administered around the nation and the globe. We’re getting there. The good news is that it was estimated by the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 director, Cyrus Shahpar, that over 70% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, meaning that they are partially vaccinated. For adequate protection from the virus, you need to be fully vaccinated, however. Still, that’s a pretty good number to start with, but we can do better.
There is more good news: for our nation’s senior citizens, the numbers are much higher. At least 90% of all adults over the age of 65 – the age group most at risk for fatal symptoms – has been at least partially vaccinated.
“It’s important to be fully vaccinated,” says Dr. Vandana Shrikanth, infectious disease expert at Legacy Community Health. “The vast majority of the cases in the surge we’re currently seeing are in people of who are unvaccinated. Breakthrough cases, or COVID-19 cases in people who are fully vaccinated, make up a very small percentage, and of those, their cases are milder than those who are unvaccinated.”
So, what are the ongoing risks of COVID-19 to senior citizens?
“There are many factors, including your age, whether you have any underlying health conditions, whether you adhere to mask-wearing guidelines, and of course if you are vaccinated,” Dr. Shrikanth continues. “Certain chronic conditions more prevalent in senior citizens like heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes can mean increased risk for a more complicated course should you contract the virus.”
However, if you are fully vaccinated and continue to wear a mask in public – and if those around you wear masks as well – your risk is much, much lower, Dr. Shrikanth adds. “Remember, mask-wearing is about protecting yourself and others. If everyone continues to mask-up while we get through this, we’re all protecting each other.”
While the national average for adults who are at least partially vaccinated is hovering around 70%, the average in Texas is just shy of 60% according to data gathered by the Mayo Clinic.
“You can still protect yourself,” Dr. Shrikanth continues. “Keep washing your hands. Keep using hand sanitizer when you can’t wash them. And as frustrating as it might be, keep your distance when possible and keep wearing a mask in public. We may not like it sometimes – it may be uncomfortable, even – but the better we all, collectively, adhere to these public health guidelines, the faster we can beat the virus and get back to a life full of hugs and hangouts – and without masks. But it’ll take all of us working together, first.”