More than 80% of Seniors are Vaccinated, But That’s Not Enough
The effort to vaccinate the nation’s over-65 population represents both a success story and a source of intense frustration. It’s the age group with the highest rate: 92 percent have gotten at least one shot and 82 percent are fully vaccinated. However, so many remain unprotected. With seniors at far higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19, there was to see their vaccination rate top 90 percent by now.
Nearly 10 million older people are without full immunization. That not only endangers them, but provides opportunities for the coronavirus to keep mutating in the bodies of those with weak immune systems. It could also complicate the planned distribution of third shots.
Last winter, when the vaccines became available, the older cohort got a head start. Seniors were among those who qualified to receive priority for appointments, and a federal program brought vaccine clinics directly to nursing homes.
Among 65- to 74-year-olds, 80 percent were fully vaccinated on July 1, rising to 84 percent by Sept. 1. Among those over 75, about 76 percent were fully vaccinated on July 1 and about 79 percent as of now.
But access isn’t the issue; in February, nurses and doctors started bringing vaccines to their doors. The political divide that has led many Americans to resist vaccination is smaller in the older population than in younger groups, but still exists. A study found that among those over 65, only three percent of Democrats said they would not get vaccinated in comparison to 13 percent of Republicans.
At the time when vaccines were unavailable but imminent, 13 percent of respondents said they probably would not get vaccinated, the survey found, citing primarily fear of side effects and mistrust of the government.
Vaccine mandates from employers and schools will not affect most older adults. Bridging this vaccination gap will take continuing efforts by federal and local health officials. Bringing vaccines to individual homes and neighborhood senior centers, providing transportation to pharmacies or clinics, revisiting nursing homes and including their staffs, enabling primary care doctors to offer vaccines in their offices.
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