While hospitalizations among the elderly are increasing, health officials said those who are fully vaccinated should not panic.

By: KDKA-TV’s Erika Stanish

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously voted to recommend the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 booster shots to all adults Friday.

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It’s happening at the right time, according to health officials, who say hospitalizations among those fully vaccinated are on the rise.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this week during a press briefing that COVID-19 hospitalizations have been increasing nationwide among those 65 and older. The age group was among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine last winter.

“Although the highest risks are those people who are unvaccinated, we are seeing an increase in emergency department visits among adults aged 65 and older, which are now again higher than they are for younger age groups,” Walensky said.

Walensky said there’s been a decline in vaccine effectiveness, specifically among the elderly. She said in order to lower hospitalizations, boosters are proving to work.

“The rate of disease is markedly lower for those who received their booster shot, demonstrating our boosters are working,” Walensky said.

St. Clair Health confirmed with KDKA that over the last few months, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise among the vaccinated in Pittsburgh.

UPMC Dr. Don Yealy told KDKA they’re also seeing more vaccinated patients within the 65 and older group or those that are immunocompromised.

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Yealy said the majority of patients hospitalized are unvaccinated.

“The pattern of admission is still, mostly at least three-quarters, are people who have chosen not to be vaccinated. The remaining people are people who got vaccines and were fully vaccinated but have a very good reason to have an incomplete response. In other words, they’re much more mature, elderly, or they have underlying immunosuppressive conditions,” Yealy said.

While hospitalizations among the elderly are increasing, Yealy said those who are fully vaccinated should not panic.

“It still is exceptionally rare to see a fairly healthy person who got a complete vaccine series and needs to be admitted for COVID-19. The vaccines are still working,” Yealy said.

Yealy reminds everyone with the holidays quickly approaching, to stay away from large crowds.

“Those crowds can be dinners at someone’s home or a holiday party. Don’t become one of those COVID-19 people. Get your vaccine, wear a mask. I think that things will begin to settle down in weeks or months. But if we don’t do it now, it will be worse,” Yealy said.

The CDC released a statement Friday saying, “booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes and are an important tool to strengthen our defense against the virus as we enter the winter holidays.”

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According to the CDC, everyone 18 and older now can get a booster shot six months after receiving the first two doses.