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This Makes You "Far More Likely" to Die, Virus Expert Says

It's important that even healthy people continue to practice protective measures.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The Omicron variant has proved to produce milder disease in most people than previous variants of COVID-19. But it's not milder for everyone, the World Health Organization emphasized recently. Some people have always been, and continue to be, more vulnerable to developing severe COVID and even dying from the disease. That's why it's important that even healthy people continue to practice protective measures to avoid getting and spreading the coronavirus. These are factors that make you far more likely to die from COVID-19, experts say. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Being Unvaccinated/Unboosted

Man gesturing stop to nurse offering syringe with vaccine.

One factor makes you almost 100 percent more likely to die from COVID, and it's completely within your control: Not being fully vaccinated or boosted. On a recent episode of his podcast, epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm said the latest data indicates:

  • Unvaccinated adults are 20 times more likely to die from COVID compared to those who are fully vaccinated.
  • Those who received a booster dose were nearly four times less likely to test positive for COVID compared to unvaccinated adults, and 97 times less likely to die from the virus.

Omicron Is Not "Mild" For Everyone

Top view of doctor and covid-19 patient with oxygen mask in bed in hospital, coronavirus concept.

"We have increasing information that Omicron is less severe than Delta, but it is still a dangerous virus," said the World Health Organization's Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove in a recent video update. "We are learning that people with underlying conditions, people with advanced age, people who are unvaccinated can have a severe form of COVID-19 following infection from Omicron."

She added: "We know that people are still being hospitalized [with Omicron] as well as dying, so it's important we have information out there that is accurate, that does suggest it is less severe than Delta, but it is not mild."


Older People At Risk

Senior woman in consultation with her female doctor or therapist

As Kerkhove pointed out, it's not just unvaccinated people who are at increased risk of dying from COVID. Perhaps the most vulnerable group is people over age 65. "Older adults are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19," says the CDC. "More than 81% of COVID-19 deaths occur in people over age 65. The number of deaths among people over age 65 is 80 times higher than the number of deaths among people aged 18 to 29."



Woman in her 30s sits by her living room window with a cup of tea and looks out contemplatively. She is a cancer survivor and is wearing a headscarf.

Cancer treatment, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can impair your immune system and increase your chance of getting severe COVID or dying. "Having cancer can make you more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19," says the CDC. "Treatments for many types of cancer can weaken your body's ability to fight off disease." 

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Immune-Suppressing Conditions

woman wearing two medical masks at the same time.

"People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be protected even if they are fully vaccinated," the CDC says. "They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider."

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Other Underlying Conditions

Retired couple walking in a park under quarantine during coronavirus outbreak

A number of chronic health conditions increase your chances of a poor COVID outcome, including heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, chronic lung conditions, obesity, dementia, mental health issues and substance use disorder. "In general, the older you are, the more health conditions you have, and the more severe the conditions, the more important it is to take preventive measures against COVID-19 such as vaccination, wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing hand hygiene," the CDC says.

RELATED: Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID, Says CDC


How to Stay Safe Out There

Brunette woman wearing a KN95 FPP2 mask.

Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.


Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael