Much of this post is from “Among Seniors, a Declining Interest in Boosters,” (dnyuz.com). This article first appeared in the New York Times as authored by Paula Span, October 22, 2022. I think what is important here is the growing indifference to Covid. They have been inoculated against Covid with the original series of shots. Most went ahead with the two boosters to strengthen the original. Now with the third booster, they are displaying hesitance.
I believe much of this is the result of the news downplaying the seriousness of this particular strain, CMC not in charge anymore, and healthcare not pushing it as much. Overall, we are not wearing masks, distancing ourselves, and avoiding crowds. Our displaying a nonchalance attitude supported by political and philosophical interests makes us ripe for an occurrence of this strain or another stronger strain evolving from this one.
This particular article should have been available to the at large public at educational.
Linda Brantman, a retired membership salesperson at a health club in Chicago, was paying attention last month when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the new bivalent booster. The newest booster protects against two variants of Covid-19. She went online and reserved an appointment at a Walgreens near her home.
Already vaccinated and boosted twice, sixty-five year old Ms. Brantman grapples with asthma on and off for years. She keeps an inhaler handy and available even for an ordinary cold. If she were sick with Covid? She says,
“I would definitely have breathing problems.”
Within two weeks of the C.D.C. announcement, she had received the latest booster. Public health officials hope more of Americans over 5 will also roll up their sleeves again.
Today, many older Americans are responding like Alan Turner, 65, who lives in New Castle, DE. He has recently retired from an industrial design firm. Alan received the initial two doses of the vaccine but stopped updating his immunity after the first recommended booster. Alan:
“I’ve become such a hermit, I have virtually no contact with people. So I haven’t gotten around to it. I don’t see any particular need. I’m biding my time.”
Although 92% of Americans over 65 remain the demographic most likely to have received the original series of vaccinations. Their numbers in keeping vaccination status up-to-date is steadily declining according to the C,S,C. To date, ~71% percent have received the first recommended booster, but only ~ 44% have received the second.
Younger people have also been less likely to receive boosters than the original vaccinations, and only about one-third of people of all ages have received any booster, The New York Times vaccine tracker indicates. But seniors, who constitute 16 percent of the population, are more vulnerable to the virus’s effects, accounting for three-quarters of the nation’s 1.1 million deaths.
Mollyann Brodie, the executive director of Public Opinion at Kaiser Family Foundation (which has been tracking vaccination rates and attitudes).
“From the beginning, older people have felt the virus was more of a threat to their safety and health and have been among the earliest adopters of the vaccine and the first round of boosters,”
Now Kaiser’s recent vaccine monitor survey published last month reveals only 8 percent of seniors (65+) said they had received the updated bivalent booster Thirty-seven percent said they intended to “as soon as possible.” As a group, older adults were better informed than younger respondents. Almost 40 percent said they had heard little or nothing about the updated bivalent vaccine. Many were unsure whether the C.D.C. had recommended it for them.
Prior data displayed in the Kaiser graph
(Currently the C.D.C. recommends individuals over age 5 receive the bivalent vaccine, which is effective against the original strain of Covid-19 and the Omicron variant, if two months have passed since their most recent vaccination or booster.)
Anne N. Sosin, a public health researcher at the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences at Dartmouth College.
“The messaging on boosters has been very muddled. Older people are entering the winter with less protection than at earlier points in the pandemic.”
Ms. Sosin and other experts noted that older Americans have several reasons to be on guard. Their immunity from previous vaccinations and boosters may have waned; mitigation policies like mandatory masking and vaccination have largely disappeared; and public testing and vaccination sites have shut down. (AB: This is stuff I mentioned above.)
Early on, Ms. Sosin said, many older adults changed their behavior by staying at home or masking and testing when they went out. Now they face greater exposure as “they’ve resume their prepandemic activities.” Adding;
“Many are no longer concerned about Covid,”
Public opinion polls bear that out. Older adults may also reason the improved treatments for Covid infections make the virus less dangerous.
Yet deaths in this age group doubled from April to July, exceeding 11,000 in both July and August. This is largely due to the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant. Deaths began dipping again last month.
For older people, the danger of Covid is “reduced, but it’s not gone,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“You can’t forget it. You can’t put it in the rearview mirror.”
Two factors make older people more vulnerable to the virus. Dr. Schaffner added:
“Their immune systems become weaker with advancing age. And they accumulate underlying conditions.”
Such as heart and lung disease, smoking histories, diabetes and obesity, that increase their risks. Adding:
“Should you become infected, you’re at risk for a more serious outcome. All the more reason to protect yourself as best you can.”
“The data are rock-solid,” Dr. Schaffner said.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimated this month that among seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries, vaccination and boosters resulted in 650,000 fewer hospitalizations for Covid and had saved 300,000 lives in 2021.
In nursing homes, the early months of the pandemic had a devastating toll. The booster uptake “has been very stagnant,” said Priya Chidambaram. A senior policy analyst at Kaiser Family Foundation and co-author of a survey published this month.
As of September, an average of 74 percent of nursing home residents had received one or more boosters. The figure ranges from 59 percent in Arizona to 92 percent in Vermont. Rates were far lower among nursing home staff. Nationally, only about half had received a booster. In Missouri, Alabama, and Mississippi, only one-third had.
A federal mandate requiring nursing home staff members to be vaccinated remains in place. It but it does not include boosters. A federal on-site vaccination campaign for residents relying on CVS and Walgreens bringing vaccines to nursing homes was effective. It was not been repeated for boosters. Ms. Chidambaram said
“That push sort of died down. The federal government took its foot off the pedal.”
Some older adults who do not live in nursing homes may be homebound or have difficulty traveling to pharmacies. But their sense of urgency also appears to have diminished. Again Ms. Sosin:
“Most older people were vaccinated. They weren’t hesitant or opposed.”
But when it comes to boosters, she said, “they’re not very motivated and they haven’t been given a reason to be. There’s more a sense of, ‘Why bother?’”
A number of public health experts are now urging a full-scale crusade — including mass-media campaigns; social media and digital communication; pop-up and drive-through sites; mobile vans; and home visits — to raise the vaccination rate among seniors, and everyone else, before a possible winter surge of the virus. Ms. Sosin:
“We have never seen an all-hands-on-deck approach to booster delivery. We should be flooding people with information, to the point where it gets irritating.”
The Biden administration’s Fall Covid plan, announced early last month, has incorporated many of these ideas. But Dr. Schaffner argued that it did not spell out details or take a sufficiently aggressive approach for nursing homes.
Ms. Sosin was similarly skeptical. “I’m not seeing the elements in the plan materialize,” she said. “They’re not reflected in the numbers we’re seeing,” she said in reference to the number of people getting boosters.
Individuals can play a role in this effort. Kaiser surveys are finding doctors and other health care professionals are trusted sources of information. The older population is in frequent contact with them. Dr. Brodie:
“If more providers recognized that four in 10 older adults don’t realize there’s a new booster and they should get it, that’s a lot of opportunity to make an impact.”
Family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors also influence health decisions and behavior, and Kaiser studies show that they can help increase vaccination rates.
For those on the fence, Dr. Brodie said, “asking or reminding your parent or grandparent about the new booster can make quite a difference.”
This article “Among Seniors, a Declining Interest in Boosters” by Paula Span, first appeared at the New York Times.
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“Covid Vaccine Booster Confusion in the Public, Politics, and Medicine.” Angry Bear.