Doctors Worry For COVID Effects On Seniors, Particularly In China

In a new briefing, health officials urged older adults in China to get a COVID vaccine and addressed lockdowns that are sparking protests.
Posted at 8:19 PM, Nov 29, 2022

Nine out of 10 U.S. COVID deaths are people who are 65 and older, according to new Washington Post analysis of CDC data.

Older adults have been hit the hardest by the virus over the past nearly three years.

Dr. June McKoy — a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School Of Medicine and the geriatric medicine specialist at Northwestern Medical Group — says she's concerned of the triple threat RSV, flu, and COVID has on senior patients, which are often the type of patients she sees.

"People have let their guard down to an extent where they're not remembering that they're in the presence of an older adult," Dr. McKoy said.

As humans age, normal body changes include weakened lungs.

"The chest cavity becomes a little smaller because of arthritic changes, osteoporosis and so on," Dr. McKoy said. "So, the ability to expand and exchange air is not as good, and then now you introduce an infection."

In China, elderly vaccination rates are lower than those in the U.S. Chinese officials say about two-thirds of adults over 80 are fully vaccinated. Many have resisted because they're afraid of side effects.

Plus, the country has not approved foreign vaccines, and has instead mostly used its own. Foreigners in the country were just recently allowed to get a Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA shot.

The Associated Press reports police are out in force after a weekend of protests of the country's lockdown plans, part of a tough "zero-COVID" policy where each case is isolated. Beijing, Shanghai and other major mainland cities were otherwise quiet.

In a news briefing, reporters asked if government health officials are reconsidering the restrictions.

"Long-term lockdowns not only greatly affect the production and living orders, but also cause anxiety and life difficulties," said Cheng Youquan, a supervisory official of the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration. "These kind of cases must be corrected and avoided."

In the same briefing, China's director of health emergency response urged those who can, especially the elderly, to get a COVID vaccine or booster as soon as possible.