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COVID-19 Vaccine Rollouts: How the Obese are Affected

Lauren Gamble

Posted on March 08 2021


Can a person’s weight impact their susceptibility and health outcomes when facing COVID-19? About 40% of adult Americans are obese. This can cause serious health implications and is especially risky with the current global pandemic striking far and wide. Recent studies have shown that people with obesity are more prone to worse outcomes from COVID-19 than others with a lower body mass index (BMI).


Researchers found that people with a BMI over 30 had a 113% higher risk for hospitalization, a 74% higher risk for ICU admission and an almost 50% higher risk of death. Doctors have indicated this is likely due to the excess fat tissue producing greater inflammation in the body. Additionally, obesity may lead to hypoventilation syndrome, meaning people cannot take in enough oxygen because they have inhibited lung expansion capabilities. 

Obese Americans are currently being prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine. Some Americans have been critical of this extension, arguing that obesity is a lifestyle choice and should not be given priority for the vaccine, even though it has been demonstrated that overweight persons are at a higher risk of complications and death. In one such example, a news anchor in Washington D.C. criticized health officials saying, “I’m annoyed obese people of all ages get priority vaccine access before all essential workers; vaccinate all essential workers. Then obese.”


For his offensive message, the anchor was “suspended pending further review.” This is only one example of how weight bias impacts American society, and how blame and shame are often introduced into medicine and health crises. In times of fear and scarcity, it is essential to remember that all people deserve quality care and to be treated with dignity and respect. 

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