Claim: Older people are more vulnerable to covid-19 infections

Verdict: True

Researched by Sani Abdul-Rahman

A discussion about the level of compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols on a popular television morning programme in Ghana, “TV3’s New Day” on November 16 showed views from some traders and buyers in a market in Takoradi in the Western Region.

The video report which showed a mixed adherence of the health guidelines or protocols by the traders and shoppers, saw some of the market women sharing various views on the COVID-19 spread situation and how they are protecting themselves from the virus.

Among those interviewed was an elderly woman who was seen wearing a nose mask and she claimed preferring to protect herself using the facial covering since older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.

Speaking in an indigenous Ghanaian language- Fante [between minutes 26:20 and 28:00], she partly said: “They said older people are more vulnerable to the disease and I’m also old… So, I wear the face mask to protect myself.”

So, how true is this claim?


Who is at higher risk?

According to the World Health Organization’s 74th Situation Report, older people are at the highest risk from COVID-19.

In general, your risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19 increases as you get older, with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that 8 out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths reported in the United States have been among adults aged 65 years and older.

On April 2, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, said: “adults 60 years and above are at a significantly increased risk of severe disease following infection from COVID-19.”

He explained their increased vulnerability is due to physiological changes associated with ageing, decreased immune function and multimorbidity.

“These conditions overexpose older adults to the infection itself and make them more likely to suffer severely from COVID-19 disease and more serious complications,” Dr Kluge said.


Older age and Covid-19 in Ghana

According to the Director of Public Health at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Badu Sarkodie, “the higher the age, the severe the complications from covid-19.”

In an interview with GhanaFact, Dr Sarkodie added that persons with conditions such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.


Why are the elderly more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections?

Dr Badu Sarkodie catalogued several reasons why older people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections. They include:

  1. Older adults are more likely to have long-term health problems that can put them at risk.
  2. People’s immune systems tend to weaken with age, making it more difficult for older people to fight off infections.
  3. Lung tissue becomes less elastic over time, making respiratory diseases like COVID-19 a particular concern for older people.
  4. Inflammation in older people can be more intense, causing organ damage.


Children and adolescents can be infected 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that children and adolescents can be infected and spread COVID-19.

Children can also develop serious illness and that all including children and adults should follow the same guidance on self-isolation if there is a risk they have been exposed or are showing symptoms.