Based on what is currently known, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions, including obesity, are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.1 This email provides recent data regarding the impact of obesity on COVID-19 and potential vaccine concerns.
Recent studies reveal that obesity is common in people hospitalized with COVID-19
A US survey of 178 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across 14 states found that obesity was the most prevalent condition among patients aged <65 years with COVID-19.2 A retrospective study involving 3615 patients found that patients aged <60 years with COVID-19 who had a BMI ≥35 kg/m2 were 2.2 times more likely to be admitted to acute care (P<0.0001) and 3.6 times more likely to be admitted to critical care (P<0.0001).3 Study data revealed that people with obesity have a greater likelihood of needing the intensive care unit, invasive mechanical ventilation, and hospital stays.2-4
Obesity has been shown to jeopardize the effectiveness of certain vaccines
While there are no data available specific to the new COVID-19 vaccines and obesity, based on evidence from multiple other diseases, including hepatitis, tetanus, rabies, and influenza, research has indicated that vaccines have reduced effectiveness in adults with obesity.5 Obesity researchers suggest that there is “little reason to believe…that COVID-19 vaccines will be different.”5
In a review published in Vaccine, investigators from the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group issued the following statement6 –
“Obesity is a serious global problem, and the suboptimal vaccine-induced immune responses observed in the obese population cannot be ignored.”
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References: 1. COVID-19: People with certain medical conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html?CDC_AA_ refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fneed-extra-precaution%E2%80%A6. Accessed December 23, 2020. 2. Garg S, Kim L, Whitaker M, et al. Hospitalization rates and characteristics of patients hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 — COVID-NET, 14 states, March 1–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(15):458-464. 3. Lighter J, Phillips M, Hochman S, et al. Obesity in patients younger than 60 years is a risk factor for COVID-19 hospital admission [letter to the editor]. Clin Infect Dis. 2020;71(15):896-897. 4. Kalligeros M, Shehadeh F, Mylona EK, et al. Association of obesity with disease severity among patients with coronavirus disease 2019. Obesity. 2020;28(7):1200-1204. 5. Varney S. America’s obesity epidemic threatens effectiveness of any COVID vaccine. Kaiser Health News website. https://khn.org/news/americas-obesity-epidemic-threatens-effectiveness-of-any-covid-vaccine/. Published August 6, 2020. Accessed December 23, 2020. 6. Painter SD, Ovsyannikova IG, Poland GA. The weight of obesity on the human immune response to vaccination. Vaccine. 2015;33(36):4422-4429.