One expert not part of the study, Dr. Nicholas Kman, pointed out that even vaccinated patients can get a mild case of COVID-19.
“We also know that when the immune system is compromised, like in severe obesity, we don’t mount as good a response to the vaccine,” said Kman, an emergency medicine physician at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
“This is why it is important for patients with risk factors, like elderly age and obesity, to get the booster vaccine when it is their turn,” he said. “The best thing an unvaccinated patient, with or without risk factors, can do is get the vaccine and then work on those healthy lifestyle changes.”
Dr. David Katz is president of True Health Initiative, which promotes healthy living as the best way to prevent disease. He said that throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 has targeted select groups.
“Even before a pandemic was declared, data from China and South Korea indicated that SARS-CoV-2 was not a one-size-fits-all threat,” said Katz, who wasn’t involved with the study.
Advanced age and chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity, were associated with elevated risks of severe infection, Katz said. This pattern persisted as COVID-19 spread around the world, leading to marked differences in hospitalization and deaths among populations.
This paper expands that view of variable risk for worse outcomes to include those with milder disease, Katz said.
“It also reminds that the slow-motion pandemics of obesity and chronic illness have made the acute COVID pandemic far worse than it needed to be, both among those hospitalized, and even among those with milder disease,” he said.
“These findings add to the already compelling case for defending against the threat of acute pandemics by doing far more to promote general good health, including healthy weight, for the population at large,” Katz said.
The report was published Oct. 20 in the journal Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses.
For more on COVID-19 and obesity, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Pia Pannaraj, MD, MPH, pediatric infectious disease specialist, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; David Katz, MD, MPH, president, True Health Initiative; Nicholas Kman, MD, emergency medicine physician, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus; Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses, Oct. 20, 2021