Children at the Fountain

For Teens with Obesity, COVID Vaccines Save Lives

A new report in MMWR this week provides a stark reminder. COVID vaccines save lives – especially for teens with obesity and other medical conditions. The study analyzed 464 patients 12 to 18 years old. Of those, 179 were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 285 were case controls. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of these patients had at least one underlying health condition, including obesity.

But vaccination with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine proved to be 93% effective for preventing hospitalization with COVID-19. Furthermore, it was 100 percent effective in preventing ICU admission and death. None of the ICU admissions or deaths occurred in vaccinated teens.

Real World Confirmation of Effectiveness

This new study is important because it confirms the high level of effectiveness seen in controlled clinical trials. In one of those studies, Robert Frenck and colleagues found 100 percent vaccine efficacy in adolescents between 12 and 15 years old.

But the new study uses a test-negative design to evaluate the effectiveness of this vaccine in the real world after approval. This kind of study is an efficient way to monitor vaccines and assure that their effectiveness does not fade over time.

Though the study design was robust, it did have limitations. Most notably, the sample size was not large enough to break down its results by underlying medical conditions. All we know is that 72 percent of the patients had a variety of such conditions, including obesity.

Obesity Is a Key Risk Factor for Poor Outcomes

However, a new study this week by Wesley Cheng and colleagues reminds us that obesity is a key risk factor for poor outcomes with COVID-19 in adolescents. They found that adolescents with overweight and obesity, like adults, tend to have more symptoms from COVID-19 and suffer with them longer.

Their findings are consistent with a prior study published June 7 in JAMA Network Open. That study found that type 1 diabetes and obesity were the strongest risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness.

So clearly, it is a tragedy when a young person suffers severely or dies from COVID-19. Obesity puts them at risk. But COVID vaccines that are highly effective for reducing that risk to almost nothing in teens, including those with obesity.

Such a tool is meant to be used.

Click here for the study in MMWR, here for the Cheng study, and here for the study from JAMA Network Open. For further reporting, click here.

Children at the Fountain, painting by August Macke / WikiArt

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October 21, 2021

One Response to “For Teens with Obesity, COVID Vaccines Save Lives”

  1. October 21, 2021 at 9:00 am, Allen Browne said:


    Such a tool should be used!