The U.S. Has Vaccinated Half Its Seniors. The Next Half Will Be Harder

More than half of Americans 65 years old and over have gotten a Covid-19 vaccination, but lingering hesitancy means inoculating the country’s most vulnerable age group is about to get much harder.

At least 27.5 million of the 54.1 million Americans in that age group have received at least one dose, according to the latest update Thursday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That age group accounts for more than four-in-five Covid-19 deaths for which a birth year was available. So the potential lethality of the virus has probably dropped by at least 40%, provided pending second shots are administered and vaccines sustain their efficacy at preventing severe disease and death.

The U.S. Has Vaccinated Half Its Seniors. The Next Half Will Be Harder

It’s likely that even more seniors have been inoculated than the official 50% milestone suggests; age-specific data is available for about 92% of vaccinations.

Authorities now turn to the difficult task of finishing the job. The KFF Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor poll conducted Feb. 15-23 shows 77% of Americans 65-and-up sought a shot as soon as possible, implying about 14.1 million seniors are still trying to get one. The balance -- about 12.4 million -- are either not sure, would only get one if mandated or refuse to take it at all.

But the marginal benefit of vaccinating those remaining seniors is enormous. Covid-19 deaths per capita in the 50-64 block were about one-third the rate of the 65-74 block and one-seventh the rate among those 75-84, the CDC data show. Because the death rate is so much higher for those 65 and over, vaccinating another 25% of that group would probably safeguard more lives than giving a shot to every person 50-64 who really wants it.

The younger age groups account for even fewer of the fatalities, but vaccinating them will prove critical in other ways, including curbing severe illness, reducing community transmission and giving people the confidence to return to work.

The U.S. posted 64,817 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the seven-day average to 62,615, the lowest since Oct. 22, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The seven-day average of newly reported deaths fell to 1,730, the lowest since Dec. 2. Almost 521,000 have died in the U.S., the data show.

According to Covid Tracking Project data:

  • New York has the most hospitalizations per capita with the virus.
  • Hawaii has the fewest.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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