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Big shift seen in high-risk older adults’ attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination


Last fall, nearly half of older adults were on the fence about COVID-19 vaccination — or at least taking a wait-and-see attitude, according to a University of Michigan poll taken at the time.

But a new follow-up poll shows that 71{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca} of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are now ready to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when a dose becomes available to them, or had already gotten vaccinated by the time they were polled in late January. That’s up from 58{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca} in October.

Three groups of older adults with especially high risk of severe COVID-19 — Blacks, Hispanics and people in fair or poor health — had even bigger jumps in vaccine receptiveness between October and late January.

The poll shows a 20 point jump in just four months in the percentage of Black respondents who said they would likely get vaccinated, and an 18 point jump for Hispanic older adults. The jump for white respondents in that time was 9 points.

People who said their health was fair or poor — likely including many with chronic conditions that can increase their risk of serious illness if they catch the coronavirus — had an 11 point jump in likelihood of getting vaccinated. But they were still less likely to want to get vaccinated than those in better health.

By late January, 60{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca} of Black respondents, 69{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca} of Hispanic respondents, and 62{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca} of those in fair or poor health said they were very likely or somewhat likely to get vaccinated, or had already gotten at least one dose. Among all white respondents regardless of health status, it was 72{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca}.


The data comes from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation with support from AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center. In November 2020, the poll published a full report based on data from a poll conducted in October. The new data comes from a question asked in late January and is being issued as an update to the previous poll.

In both outings, the poll asked older adults the question, “Assuming no cost to you, when a COVID vaccine is available, how likely are you to get it?” Respondents in January had the additional option to answer that they had already been vaccinated.

The percentage of all respondents who were most enthusiastic about vaccination — those who said they were “very likely” to get the vaccine — jumped 20 percentage points, from 33{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca} in October to 53{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca} in January.

As states like Michigan open up vaccination eligibility to people over 50, the poll reveals that this group may need a bit more persuading than those 65 and up. The younger half of the poll group had an 11 point rise in likelihood of vaccination, compared with a 14 point rise in the older group.
As in October, the new poll shows that those who have higher household incomes or more education were also more likely to report they would get a COVID vaccine.

The National Poll on Healthy Aging results are based on responses from a nationally representative sample of adults aged 50 to 80 who answered a wide range of questions online; the October poll included 1,553 respondents, and the January one included 2,022 respondents.


In the U.S., the sometimes Byzantine vaccine distribution process has been closely watched. In January, President Biden issued a number of executive orders aimed at ramping up production and supply, including invoking the Defense Production Act to secure supplies necessary for health workers responding to the pandemic.

In addition, Biden also issued an executive order to ensure a data-driven response to COVID-19 and future high-consequence public health threats. Consistent with this policy, the heads of all executive departments and agencies are to facilitate the gathering, sharing and publication of COVID-19-related data in coordination with the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: [email protected]


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