While anyone can catch the new coronavirus, certain groups are at greater risk of developing more severe illness: 

  • People age 60 or older
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • People with preexisting health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes or obesity.

While older people and those with other health conditions are more likely to develop severe disease, young and healthy people can also become seriously ill. Although children seldom develop severe disease, they can carry the virus and transmit it to others. A small proportion of children develop a condition known as severe multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

People with cancer who are being treated with certain chemotherapy and those who have undergone stem cell transplants may have weakened immune systems and are prone to infections. People living with cancer—especially lung cancer or blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma—are more likely to develop severe disease.

Most people with HIV who are on effective antiretroviral treatment and have a high CD4 cell count do not appear to be more likely to contract the coronavirus or develop severe COVID-19. However, those who have unsuppressed HIV, have a low CD4 count or had a very low count in the past, and those with comorbidities are at greater risk.

People with advanced liver disease, including cirrhosis or fatty liver disease, are at risk for more severe COVID-19. People who have received a liver transplant and are taking immune-suppressing drugs should take extra precautions to prevent infection.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for all these groups. Those with advanced immune suppression may not respond as well, but the vaccines still offer some protection.

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2021