15 Aug Seniors Lead the Nation’s Fight Against COVID- 19
In early August, the United States hit a major milestone amid an increase in COVID-19 community transmission rates. According to vaccination figures tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of people age 65 and older, or 49 million senior citizens, have been at least partially vaccinated.
Overall, Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) data indicates that 68% of people over age 12 have been at least partially inoculated. In addition, the threat of COVID-19 to the older population has transcended many of the political issues negatively impacting vaccination rates.
Nearly 80% of deaths have been among people age 65 and up, with nursing homes and other long-term care facilities being hit the hardest. As a result, many states targeted seniors when the COVID-19 vaccines first became available. Current vaccination rates vary among states, with 99% of seniors in Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Vermont being immunized. West Virginia ranks last with only 78% of people age 65 and older being inoculated.
Another successful factor, in the push to vaccinate older adults, is the routine advice they receive from their health care providers. For example, seniors are typically advised by their primary care physicians to get immunized for diseases such as flu, pneumonia and shingles. Many elderly adults even remember receiving the polio vaccine when it was introduced in the 1950s. In contrast, many younger adults have not been inoculated since elementary school and are less likely to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccine hesitancy presents a serious obstacle to the nation’s fight against COVID-19. A recent KFF survey found that 53% of unvaccinated adults in the U.S. believe the vaccines pose a bigger risk to their health than the virus. Unvaccinated adults are also much less worried about the Delta variant, and have less confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines compared to those who are vaccinated.
While the majority of seniors have decreased their chance of severe disease, hospitalization and even death from COVID-19, they are not yet protected via herd immunity. The bottom line, according to health experts, is the entire population remains at some risk until all vaccine-eligible persons are immunized.