President Biden is 79, and Americans his age and older have had an increasing share of those who died of Covid in recent months. The virus has benefited from declining immunity caused by long delays since the last vaccinations of the elderly, and the Omicron variant has developed a growing ability to evade the body’s defenses.
Covid has killed significantly fewer Americans of all ages this summer than during the peak of the winter Omicron wave. Still, older people remain at significantly higher risk.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in early June, four times as many Americans aged 75 to 84 died from the virus each week, compared with people two decades younger. (Those death rates are preliminary, the CDC warned, because they were based on death certificates and didn’t account for all deaths in those age groups.)
That’s an even bigger age difference than at the height of the Omicron wave this winter. Back then, the number of people aged 75 to 84 killed by Covid each week was twice as high as the number aged 55 to 64.
The president received a second booster shot in late March, which significantly reduced his risk of serious illness. This spring, people 50 and older who received a single booster died from Covid four times as often as those who received two booster doses, the CDC has reported.
In 2022, Covid deaths, while always concentrated in older people, will target older people more than ever since vaccines became widely available. Many elderly people were vaccinated in early 2021, and for those who have not yet received a booster injection, the immune defenses generated by the injections have decreased significantly.
By contrast, middle-aged Americans, who suffered a large share of pandemic deaths last summer and fall, benefit from a greater amount of immune protection against both vaccination and previous infections.
While Covid deaths remain much lower than in winter, they are rising again among the elderly as the immune-evasive Omicron subvariant known as BA.5 causes more infections, according to the latest CDC data. From early May to early June, the number of Americans aged 75 to 84 who died of Covid each week rose by nearly 50 percent.