Researchers fear that vaccines might not be as effective in people who are obese, a population already highly vulnerable to COVID-19.

When Jesús Ojino Sosa-García looks out over the people being treated for COVID-19 in his hospital’s intensive-care unit, one feature stands out: “Obesity is the most important factor we see,” he says.

Sosa-García works at Hospital Médica Sur in Mexico City, which has been battling a COVID-19 outbreak for six months. “Every day, we receive patients,” he says. And many of those showing up with severe cases come from Mexico’s growing population of obese individuals — currently 36% of adults. Sosa-García and his colleagues checked the stats early in the pandemic and they were already indicating an imbalance: half of the 32 people admitted to his hospital’s intensive-care unit with severe COVID-19 before 3 May were obese1.

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