Scientists have moved extremely fast. We already have several COVID-19 vaccines just around the corner. But developing is one problem, producing and distributing it is another. Even then, you have to still consider whether people will actually take it.
Still, not everyone seems confident about the new vaccine, especially older-adults, one of the highest-priority groups to receive the vaccine, according to a new survey in the United States.
The University of Michigan asked a national sample of 1,556 adults age 50-80 about their interest in and opinions on the flu vaccine and a future COVID-19 vaccine as part of its National Poll on Healthy Aging. About 58% of those surveyed said they are somewhat or very likely to get vaccinated to prevent COVID-19.
But when researchers asked the participants if they would take it as soon as possible, the picture became more concerning. Up to 20% said they would want to get vaccinated right away when vaccines become available and another 46% said they would rather wait for others to get vaccinated first before doing it themselves.
“Effective vaccines will be crucial to getting this pandemic under control and preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, especially among people over 50 and those with underlying health issues,” said Preeti Malani, the poll’s director. “Our findings point to a strong need to communicate effectively and transparently.”
Interest in getting a COVID-19 vaccine was higher among those aged 65–80 compared with those 50–64 (63% vs. 54%), for men compared with women (64% vs. 52%), and Whites compared with Hispanics and Blacks (63% vs. 51% vs. 40%). Those living with others or with more education were also more likely to get vaccinated.
The survey also showed that most people are feeling the surge in infections. Half of adults age said they personally knew someone who had COVID-19, and 2% reported having had it themselves. One in five older adults indicated they personally knew someone who died from COVID-19. The likelihood of getting a COVID-19 vaccine did not differ based on whether respondents knew someone who had COVID-19.
In deciding whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine, older adults rated the following as very important:
- how well it works (80%);
- their own research (56%);
- if it was recommended by their doctor (52%), public health officials (42%), or family and friends (13%).
- cost (30%).
Three in five older adults strongly agreed that people who are high risk should be given priority to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly half strongly agreed that they are worried about the safety of a vaccine that is developed quickly. About one in four said they would be willing to be in a clinical trial to test a COVID-19 vaccine.
About two in three older adults indicated they received a flu shot last flu season. Seven in ten either received one since August 2020 or intended to get one this flu season (38%). Nearly half of adults age 50–80 believed that getting a flu vaccine is more important this year compared to other years and 44% said it is just as important.
“Any coronavirus vaccine must be FDA-authorized or approved, safe, effective, and accessible. Once vaccines are available, it will be important for Americans to talk to their providers to understand which vaccine is best for them and make an informed choice,” said Alison Bryant, senior vice president of research for AARP.
The National Poll on Healthy Aging results are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,556 adults aged 50 to 80 who answered a wide range of questions online. Questions were written, and data interpreted and compiled, by the IHPI team. The full report can be accessed here.