The WHO Just Sent This Urgent Warning About Omicron to People Over 60
The global organization wants older individuals across the world to heed this advice.
Since the start of the COVID pandemic, older adults have been disproportionally at risk of developing serious infections from the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of severe illness with the coronavirus increases with age, especially for people in their 60s or older. That's why older U.S. adults were first in line for vaccines last year and then for booster shots, as the Delta variant wreaked havoc across the U.S. And now, as a new variant takes hold, these older adults might need to be even more cautious.
On Nov. 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidance in relation to the new COVID variant, Omicron. Based on advice from WHO'S Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution, the global organization is recommending that people 60 years and older do not travel right now.
"Person who are … at increased risk of developing severe disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older … should be advised to postpone travel to areas with community transmission," the WHO states in its guidance, adding that people with comorbidities that also put them at increased risk of severe COVID should adhere to this guidance as well.
This recommendation comes as virus experts and officials warn that there is still a lot we don't know about Omicron in terms of how quickly it spreads and how effectively it can bypass the protection from vaccines. White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, told President Joe Biden on Nov. 28 that it will take about two weeks to have more definitive information on the new variant's transmissibility and severity, per USA Today.
"We don't know if it's going to be more virulent in older people," Susan Kline, MD, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Minnesota Medical School, told USA Today. "That's just going to take a few weeks. We'll just have to learn through experience, through the types of patients who get admitted to hospitals."
Many countries have already implemented new travel restrictions as a response to the Omicron variant. The U.S. has barred foreign travelers from South Africa and seven other African countries, while countries like Israel, Japan, and Morocco have banned all foreign travelers. But the WHO says that this is not the right way mitigate the spread of Omicron.
"Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods," the global organization states. "In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data."
Instead, the WHO says that national authorities can create travel-related risk mitigation through new screenings of passengers, COVID testing, and the applications of quarantines for international travelers. The CDC has already expanded surveillance programs at four major U.S. airports: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, and San Francisco International Airport."
"As we have done throughout the pandemic, CDC is evaluating how to make international travel as safe as possible, including pre-departure testing closer to the time of flight and considerations around additional post-arrival testing and self-quarantines," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said during a Nov. 30 White House COVID Response Team press briefing.