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Omicron Variant Poses New Threat to Fully and Partially Vaccinated Seniors

The Covid Pandemic has been one of the single most globally disruptive events of recent history. The scale of the financial costs alone is unprecedented, with at least $24 trillion added to the total global debt. For a little point of reference, the US annual budget in 2020 was $6.6 trillion. The individual economic costs may never be fully known.

What is known is that an estimated 22 million American jobs simply evaporated in the wake of Covid and lockdown measures. While some people managed to find new jobs, not everyone did. Many people burned through their modest savings and took on debt just to pay rent and keep food on the table.

The most devastating aspect of the pandemic for many has been the personal losses. Over 5.3 million people have died globally and around 800,000 in the US, to date. For those who caught the virus and survived, it often meant extended stays in a hospital under quarantine protocols. Not surprisingly, mental health across the world has suffered from those losses combined with isolation. It’s also added stress to relationships and many couples with struggling marriages are now calling it quits.

The one bright spot in the Pandemic was the rapid development and deployment of vaccines. Vaccine development can take ten years or more under normal circumstances. The Covid vaccines were developed, underwent clinical testing, and cleared the FDA with an Emergency Use Authorization in less than a year.

Part of the reason for the rapid creation and deployment stemmed from years of preliminary research on similar viruses. That meant that scientists already had strong baselines to work from with Covid. The companies also had the advantage of around a decade of research in mRNA vaccine production. That meant the companies using the mRNA technology could largely just plug the virus data in and create potential vaccines. Expedited human trials and substantial participation in the trials also sped things along. Remove any of those pieces, and vaccine creation would have taken far longer. As it stands, it is nigh-unto miraculous that everything fell into place.

Under traditional vaccine models, widespread distribution of a vaccine will normally all but eradicate a virus. Yet, Covid is still raging across the world, with new variants like the Delta and Omicron springing up on a regular basis. What’s the difference? Large numbers of people flat out refused to get vaccinated, turning many of them into carriers who infected others. That allows the virus to mutate.

Those mutations pose a particular risk to vulnerable populations with weaker immune systems, such as seniors. The variants may well cause breakthrough infections even among seniors who are fully vaccinated. That was the case with the Delta variant, which triggered a whole new round of illness and hospitalizations. Although, the vaccines did help to keep symptoms more manageable.

The Omicron variant is even worse because it has a mutated protein spike that may help it bypass the current vaccines. The only slightly brighter spot is early evidence that the illness may trigger less severe symptoms, but it’s too early to tell if that will hold true for all populations. The current thinking is that vaccination will also help keep the symptoms for the new variant to more manageable and survivable levels.

Despite the relative success of the vaccines, no vaccine is perfect. According to Johnson & Johnson’s own study, the J&J vaccine is only 66% effective at preventing moderate and severe cases. Beyond that, the vaccine loses effectiveness after six months. To remain fully vaccinated, you need the second J&J booster shot. That makes booster shots of vaccines for seniors particularly important as the Omicrom variant spreads. Otherwise, they may find themselves at risk for infection.

Unfortunately, the new variant may pose a bigger threat to the elderly population, even those with a booster shot for their vaccination. If that protein spike does let the variant bypass vaccinations protections, the elderly may find themselves getting sick regardless. With weaker or weakened immune systems in play, seniors may struggle to recover from the new variant even if it does cause less severe symptoms.

Of course, seniors staying safe from the new variant is about more than vaccinations. You should still embrace the recommendations that applied in the early days of the pandemic. Employ social distancing whenever possible. That means keeping that standard six feet of separation between yourself and others whenever possible. Wear masks whenever you’re in public or coming into contact with new people in your home. Masks prevent you from inhaling the tiny droplets that carry the virus when someone coughs or sneezes. Wash your hands regularly over the course of the day.

The heightened potential risk of Omicron is a matter of concern, but that doesn’t mean you should discount the value of the vaccines. Vaccinations are still a key piece of your defense against contracting the virus. Even if they aren’t 100 percent effective in stopping the new variant, they will still likely provide some protection in the higher-risk senior population.

Those who most need to worry are seniors without any vaccinations at all and those who haven’t gotten a booster for their original vaccination within six months. The lack of any protection means that if they become infected, they’ll potentially face the full range of Covid symptoms. While younger people may get through those symptoms fairly well, they have the advantages of young, highly-active immune systems and strong recuperation to lean on. Those are advantages that not all seniors can rely on.

The Omicron variant does pose a viable threat to vulnerable populations, such as seniors. That is especially true for those with no vaccinations or without booster shots to their vaccinations. Those with no vaccinations or who don’t get the booster will face the most risk of infection after exposure. Fortunately, this is not an unmanageable risk.

Taking active steps to avoid or limit exposure through social distancing, masking, and regular hand washing can help prevent infection. Getting the vaccination or the booster shot after 6 months will also help protect seniors from the variant. While it may not entirely prevent infections, it should go a long way toward helping minimize the symptoms. If seniors pair up methods that limit or avoid exposure with the vaccinations and boosters, they should be in good shape to avoid infection.

If you are concerned about your elderly loved ones and making sure they are well looked after in these uncertain times, you can rely on Preferred Care at Home. We provide an array of senior home care services designed to help comfort, provide companionship, and make life easier for seniors. To learn more about our services offered, please take a look at our services page. We look forward to hearing from you, and don’t hesitate any longer about getting your elderly loved ones the help they need.

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