While the rollout of vaccines has spurred optimism for a potential end to the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing portion of young Americans are becoming infected with the virus.
In an interview with ABC News, Katie A. Sharff, MD, infectious disease physician with Northwest Permanente, said she has seen an increase in patients between 40 and 50 years old requiring hospitalization, with patients as young as 30 being admitted to the intensive care unit.
“If you have that many more young people getting infected there will at least be a subset who develop severe disease,” said Dr. Sharff, who serves as Northwest Permanente’s physician director for Influenza and Antimicrobial Stewardship.
While the number of younger individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 has gone up, early efforts to vaccinate higher-risk individuals seem to be paying off, according to Dr. Sharff.
“In previous surges, the majority of our patients were elderly and had chronic medical conditions,” she said. “We’re seeing less of that very elderly population, and I think that really speaks to the efficacy of the vaccines.”
Building vaccine confidence among younger people will be critical moving forward, Dr. Sharff noted. “Vaccine hesitancy is pretty real” among younger people, she said, indicating that it will need to be addressed as the nation works its way toward herd immunity.
“Our best way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated.”
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