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Who is at high risk for getting serious illness from Covid-19? 

Serious illness from Covid-19 means you’re more likely to be hospitalized, need intensive care or need a ventilator to breathe and are at increased risk of death.

Risk of death increases as you age

Ages 50-64 25x higher 
Ages 65-74 60x higher
than ages 18-29. 
Adults over age 50

Your risk increases with age, and those over 65 are most likely to get very sick from Covid-19. There are several reasons for this: 

Older people tend to have more underlying conditions that are risk factors for serious Covid-19 illness.

The immune system gets weaker as we get older, which can make it harder to fight infection.

Our lungs don’t function as well as they do when we’re younger, which can make a respiratory illness like Covid-19 more serious.

Covid-19 is an inflammatory disease, and inflammation in older people can be intense and can damage internal organs.

8 out of 10 Covid-19 deaths occur in people over 65 

People with underlying health conditions

The more medical conditions one has, the greater their risk for serious illness. Some of the medical conditions that increase your risk are:


Chronic kidney disease

Chronic liver disease

Chronic lung diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Cystic fibrosis 

Dementia or other neurological conditions

Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)

Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease and possibly high blood pressure

HIV infection

Immunocompromised or weakened immune system 

Mental health conditions, including depression

Overweight and obesity

Limited physical activity

Pregnancy and people within 6 weeks of giving birth

Sickle cell disease or thalassemia  

Smoking (either currently or formerly)

Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant

Cerebrovascular disease, such as stroke 

Substance abuse disorders


People with disabilities

Disabilities, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cerebral palsy, birth defects, Down syndrome, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and spinal cord injuries, put people at higher risk of serious illness because they are more likely to:

Have chronic health conditions

Live in group settings

Face barriers in accessing healthcare

People in certain racial or ethnic groups

Health and social inequities contribute to an increased risk of severe Covid-19 illness in marginalized racial and ethnic groups. These factors include:  

Lower socioeconomic status and poorer living conditions

Limited access to vaccines and treatment

Increased exposure to Covid-19 among frontline and essential workers, who are often members of marginalized groups

The long-term effects of stress caused by discrimination 

How can you reduce your risk of getting Covid-19?

Stay up to date on your Covid-19 vaccines

Mask while in public

Avoid contact with people who have Covid-19

Cases of Covid-19 and deaths remain high. 

If you’ve been exposed to Covid-19:

Wear a mask

Watch for symptoms

Isolate and test immediately if you have symptoms

Test 5 days after exposure even if you don’t have symptoms

Keep in touch with your healthcare practitioner

If you have symptoms and are 50 years or older or are at high risk of getting very sick, get tested . If you have Covid-19, you may be eligible for treatment. 

If you have a health condition that puts you at high risk and you develop symptoms of Covid-19 — or if your symptoms worsen even if you are not at high risk — contact your healthcare practitioner so they can monitor you. 

This resource was created with support from Pfizer.