Omicron Is Life-Threatening For The Unvaccinated, WHO reveals

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Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Omicron Is Life-Threatening For The Unvaccinated, WHO reveals

Early COVID updates revealed a mild Omicron variant. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that Omicron is neither mild nor life-threatening. 

News sources have recently painted an unpretty picture of the grim reality of the Omicron variant for the elderly, the unvaccinated, and those with underlying medical conditions. Not just cautionary, leaders of WHO’s health emergencies program have stated that Omicron is a “massive threat.” 

With this, and the lesser effective vaccine and lowered immune response, unvaccinated populations, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions now face a higher risk of severe sickness and a massive threat to their health, even death.

Increased Mortality And Health Issues Within The Elderly Population

The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) states that the elderly are more likely to get severely ill from COVID and the Omicron variant. While the risk increases for people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, individuals who are 85 and older are the most likely to suffer from extreme illness if infected. More than 81% of COVID deaths occur in people over age 65, with Omicron-related deaths now spiking. 

In medical terms, severe illness means those infected with COVID may be hospitalized, need intensive care, require a ventilator to assist in breathing or die. Mortality increases with Omicron with increasing age, and, now, the number of deaths among people over age 65 is 80 times higher than the number of deaths among people aged 18-29.

For more information on the risk for COVID infection, hospitalization, and death by age group, click the CDC link here.

Increased Hospitalizations For Those With Underlying Medical Conditions And Suppressed Immune Systems

Directors and technical leads at WHO’s health emergencies program also stated that individuals with at least one underlying medical condition are at an increased risk of hospitalization and death from the Omicron variant. 

With exact health outcomes from viral infections depending on an individual’s baseline level of health, and the ability of their immune system to fight off infection, those with underlying conditions are now, more than ever, at higher risk.

According to the CDC underlying medical conditions include the following: 

  • Cancer, including but not limited to, blood cancers and solid tumors
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease as well as, but not limited to, alcohol-related liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver scarring 
  • Chronic lung diseases, including but not limited to, asthma, Bronchiectasis, Bronchopulmonary dysplasia, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, those with damaged or scarred lung tissue, Cystic fibrosis, Pulmonary embolism, and pulmonary hypertension
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart Conditions, including but not limited to, heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and possibly high blood pressure 
  • HIV infection
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) including primary, secondary, and acquired
  • Mental health conditions, including but not limited to, depression, mood disorders and schizophrenia spectrum disorders
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • Smoking, current or former
  • Solid-organ or blood stem cell transplant, including but not limited to, bone marrow transplants
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
  • Substance use disorders (alcohol and drugs)
  • Tuberculosis

“Less Severity” Does Not Mean Omicron Only Causes Mild Illness

Directors and technical leads at WHO’s health emergencies program further stressed the rising numbers of hospitalizations for Omicron infections and have cautioned the public about the long-term health implications. With this, U.S. citizens should not become fatalistic and resign themselves to infection. As stated, Omicron is not mild, nor are its symptoms less severe. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has further encouraged people to look at this in terms of seriously considering getting vaccinated. Along with vaccinations, elderly, unvaccinated, and immune-suppressed citizens are urged to wear a well-fitting mask, avoid crowds and work from home if possible.

Given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant and the high risk of severe medical effects from infection within the noted populations, increasing vaccination coverage to more than 80% to 85% for the entire US population should be the ultimate goal. As CDC states, fully vaccinated adults 65 years old and older have a 94% reduction in risk of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Along with vaccinations, those not yet vaccinated and at high risk need to adhere to CDC guidelines and practice extra precautions as well as daily health monitoring. 

Important To Note With Vaccinations For The Unvaccinated 

While much effort is being made to motivate the unvaccinated population to get fully vaccinated, it is vital for those who are elderly and suffer from medical conditions considering vaccination to first speak to a medical expert, health professional, or doctor before getting the vaccination. 

While new information released by WHO shows that Omicron could be life-threatening for the unvaccinated, heading straight first into vaccination without the necessary consultation for those at high risk may also prove fatal or highly problematic. 

Medical conditions may have followed current or previous medication and treatment which weaken the immune system. Those with underlying medical conditions may be taking or have taken medicine or have undergone surgery or medical therapy which suppresses the immune system. With this, the doctor’s recommendations will require the individual to pause before getting vaccinated. Rather wait until the immune system recovers before getting the vaccine.

stacey

Medically reviewed by:

Stacey Rowan Woensdregt has more than 15 year's experience in print media, online media, copywriting and digital marketing. She has written for many bespoke magazines and media houses and has worked within top digital marketing agencies around the world. Her niche markets include architecture, property, health and wellness, holistic medicine, art and lifestyle and business."

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