Even with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths declining in recent weeks, it’s an inescapable fact that older individuals remain at greatest risk of severe outcomes should they be infected with the current Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
In the past six months, 81% of Arizona’s COVID-19 deaths have been among those 65 and older, while another 16% have been among those ages 45 through 64. Meanwhile, 56% of COVID-19 hospitalizations during that time have been among those 65 and older.
That’s one reason why I’m glad to see new COVID-19 boosters available that target both the original virus causing COVID-19 and the highly infectious Omicron subvariants that currently predominate in Arizona and around the country.
Making sure you are up to date on COVID-19 vaccination, including a recommended booster dose or doses, is the best way to protect yourself not just from hospitalization and death but from long COVID. But it’s especially important for older people, whose immune systems weaken due to age, and for those with conditions such as chronic disease that weaken their immune systems.
Worryingly, about a third of vaccinated people age 65 and older have yet to receive even one of the two booster doses that had been recommended for those 50 and older. And only a third of vaccinated individuals ages 50 and older have received both recommended booster doses.
Because they target newer variations of the virus causing COVID-19 as well as the original virus, these newly approved boosters provide a great reason to change that. A Pfizer booster is available to everyone age 12 and older, while a Moderna booster is approved for those age 18 and older.
Both of these boosters are recommended at least two months after your most recent booster dose or your primary vaccination series.
As with other COVID-19 vaccines that have dramatically reduced the chances of severe illness, these boosters have met rigorous standards for safety.
Even though it’s important for everyone to be up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination, please allow me to make one more appeal for older Arizonans and others with weakened immune systems to take advantage of this protection.
We expect these new boosters to be available shortly at locations throughout Arizona. Please visit azhealth.gov/FindVaccine to find a provider and update your COVID-19 protection today.