Since the discovery of the covid virus at the end of 2019, the elderly are among those who have suffered the most deprivation, alongside people with comorbidities. That’s because cases of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus tended to be more severe in them. Now, with the four doses of the vaccine and many advances in science over the past two years, how vulnerable do you remain to the pandemic?
To understand what measures people who are over 65 still need to keep in the covid-19 pandemic, the Canaltech interviewed physician Lina Paola Rodrigues, an infectious disease specialist at BP – Beneficência Portuguesa de São Paulo.
Were the elderly really the most affected by the covid-19 pandemic?
Before we continue, it is necessary to remember that, in fact, the elderly were one of the groups most affected by the covid-19 pandemic. When there were no vaccines available in Brazil — it was only in January 2021 that the first doses began to arrive — they were among the main risk groups for the disease. They were even among the first to be vaccinated. To this day, many maintain the seclusion learned in those difficult times.
To scale the problem, in the state of São Paulo, there are officially 174,461 deaths due to the coronavirus until this Friday (16). Among the state deaths, 68.9% were registered in the group of people over 60 years old. This means that there were more than 120,000 deaths in this age group.
Which groups are still at risk for covid?
People over 65 are still among the risk groups, but there is an important difference: the issue of comorbidities. “Older people with comorbidities or decompensated chronic diseases are the main [pelos casos fatais da covid]”, explains infectious disease specialist Rodrigues.
Among the main risk comorbidities, the doctor highlights:
- Heart disease (diseases that affect the heart);
- Oncological diseases (cancer);
- Renal insufficiency;
- Rheumatological diseases.
In addition to the elderly, current deaths from covid-19 also involve “young children – from newborns to 3 years old -, unvaccinated children, pregnant women and immunosuppressed – from solid organ transplants, bone marrow transplants and patients taking chemotherapy. , immunobiologicals, immunosuppressants or corticosteroids”, he details. In general, the risk is greater for those who have never been vaccinated or contracted the infection.
Fall in severe coronavirus cases
The latest InfoGripe newsletter, developed by researchers from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), brings good news for the elderly: cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) — a complication that normally affects severe Covid patients — are falling for all age groups, including the elderly. The greatest risk is curiously associated with minors.
Should people over 65 continue to wear a mask?
To prevent the transmission of the covid virus, one of the most widely adopted measures was the use of masks. Now, the item is no longer mandatory in most places, including public transport. In the current scenario, elderly people can still benefit from the use of this protective equipment.
As a general rule, Rodrigues explains that “elderly people without comorbidities or with compensated chronic diseases, vaccinated with the four doses, can circulate without a mask”. Ideally, agglomerations should be avoided.
“For the elderly with decompensated chronic diseases, immunosuppressed, who frequent health services – such as hemodialysis services -, residents of nursing homes or who are not vaccinated, the recommendation is to keep the mask in closed places, public transport and hospitals. “, highlights.
Fourth dose of vaccine could save lives
To increase defenses against the coronavirus, some states and cities already release the application of the fourth dose of the vaccine against covid-19 for those aged 18 or over, such as Rio de Janeiro, Amazonas and São Paulo. However, the demand is not as high when compared to the vaccination coverage of the other doses.
For example, in the city of São Paulo, the first extra dose was administered to 8.1 million people. Meanwhile, the second booster dose was applied to 3.8 million. Among people aged 65 to 69, only 74.8% received all four doses. Among those aged between 20 and 24, the percentage dropped to 9.7%.
“Complete vaccination, with four doses, is essential to sustain a protective response over time. Aging also happens in the immune system and, therefore, the response of neutralizing antibodies is lower”, reinforces the doctor about the importance of the elderly being with up-to-date vaccinations.
Will vaccination be the same as the flu?
In the United States and some European countries, updated vaccines against the Ômicron variant should begin to be applied by the end of this month. The new formulation adopts a strategy that is similar to flu vaccines. These are annually updated from the strains that most circulate in the world, with the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Vaccine updates are necessary and will be our reality from now on”, says the infectologist. As these vaccines contemplate the new types of variants, we expect that “outbreaks of great magnitudes” will no longer occur and the virus will remain in specific groups that are not immunized.
Immunization prevents risks of cognitive diseases
In addition to increasing the level of protection against covid-19, immunizers prevent the sequelae of infection, that is, long covid. Recent (and preliminary) studies point out that people who have recovered from the disease have an increased risk for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University (Cwru) reported that, in the elderly, the risk of Alzheimer’s increases by almost 50% after severe cases of covid-19. In another study, scientists from the University of Oxford found that the risk of neurological sequelae remains high for up to two years after cases of the disease.
What to expect from the future of the covid pandemic?
Despite the challenges imposed by the tragedy that was the covid-19, it is possible to envision a more promising future. After all, the WHO has already said that the pandemic may be close to an end. In the last week, the number of weekly deaths reported from the coronavirus was the lowest since March 2020 – when the pandemic state was officially announced. Vaccination and case testing should still be priorities for governments.
It is worth remembering that, according to the doctor, “the safest scenario for everyone is when the number of deaths is zero or close to zero, and the population is fully vaccinated annually with the types of viruses circulating at that time”. And we hope that soon we get to this place.
Source: With information: Government of SP, InfoGripe and City of SP
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