The first vaccines are out for distribution starting with essential workers, those at high risk, and seniors-specifically, seniors in nursing homes and assisted living centers will be among the first Americans vaccinated. Here is everything you need to know about the vaccine.
“What [the advisory committee] has said in deliberations is that they’re very likely to recommend that essential workers will be next, then seniors and those with existing medical conditions,” said Jennifer Kates, Senior VP at Kaiser Family Foundation.
Seniors are priority
With there being several priority groups, older adults living at home will need to wait a while longer. This means that seniors living in nursing homes and assisted living centers will be vaccinated first. For a better understanding, there is a population of 21 million health care workers, 3 million long-term care residents, 66 million essential workers, more than 100 million adults with high-risk conditions, and 53 million adults at the age of 65 and older
What does this mean for seniors who are not in assisted living facilities? This means that hospitals and physicians may try to identify older adults who are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and offer them vaccines before other seniors.
New findings in seniors fighting COVID-19
A recent study of more than 500,00 Medicare beneficiaries found the conditions that most increase older adults’ chances of dying from COVID-19 are sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease, leukemias and lymphomas, heart failure, diabetes, cerebral palsy, obesity, lung cancer, and heart attacks, in that order. These new findings provided an insight into how seniors are suffering from other ailments caused or worsened by COVID-19.
“Out of all Medicare beneficiaries, we identified just under 2,500 who had no medical problems and died of Covid-19,” said Dr. Martin Makary, a co-author of the study and professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
“We knew the risk was skewed toward comorbidity (multiple underlying medical conditions), but we didn’t realize it skewed this much.”
Side effects & distribution
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been tested in adults aged 65 and older, who mounted a strong immune response. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, administered three to four weeks apart. The companies have said about 40 million doses of their vaccines should be available this year, enough to fully vaccinate about 20 million people.
“What I worry about most is the side effects,” said Dr. Sharon Inouye, a geriatrician at Hebrew Senior Life in Boston and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “We may not be able to know about serious but rare side effects until millions of people take them.”
But Inouye said that is a gamble she is willing to take. Not only will Inouye get a vaccine, she just told her 91-year-old mother, who lives in assisted living, to say “yes” when one is offered.
“My whole family lives in fear that something will happen to her every day,” Inouye said. “Even though there’s a lot we still don’t know about these vaccines, it’s compelling that we protect people from this overwhelming illness,” said Dr. Sharon Inouye.
Are you ready for the vaccine?
According to a recent poll from the University of Michigan, only 58 percent of older adults (ages 50 to 80) said they were very or somewhat likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine. A significant number of older adults, 46 percent, though they would get the vaccine eventually but wanted others to go first. Only 20 percent wanted to get it as soon as possible.
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