OGDEN — Younger people haven’t gotten COVID-19 vaccinations at the same rate as those aged 60 and up.
On the other hand, they haven’t been able to get their shots for as long, and a Weber-Morgan Health Department official says that’s probably the reason for the disparity.
“We feel these numbers reflect the amount of time each demographic has had to get vaccinated,” said Lori Buttars, spokesperson for the Weber-Morgan Health Department. Because the vaccination clinics managed by the health department are relatively large, administering 1,200 to 2,000 doses per day, “we have not really noticed a different attitude toward being vaccinated in general.”
Results of a study released last month, by contrast, suggest differences in attitudes toward getting vaccinated among those aged 60 and up and their younger counterparts, with the older pool more receptive to rolling up their sleeves for shots. Even so, whether such differences result in disparate vaccination rates by age as time passes remains to be seen. And the study, conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, puts the emphasis on reaching out to vaccination skeptics, regardless of age.
Around 40% of respondents to the study survey said they probably wouldn’t be vaccinated or would take their time in getting vaccinated, and the Johns Hopkins researchers said that pool should be the focus of health officials pushing for higher vaccination rates.
“Once we get the first 50% vaccinated, we’re going to be left with as many as 40% that are unsure, so we need to start working with them now,” Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Bloomberg School and the lead author of the study, said in a press release. With vaccination efforts focused on those 16 and up, 90% of the age group will have to be vaccinated, the researchers said, to achieve community immunity to the COVID-19 virus.
Those aged 70 and up were the first age group in Utah eligible for vaccination, starting on Jan. 20. Those 65 and up became eligible on March 1, those 50 and up could get shots starting March 8 and the 16-and-older group could start getting vaccinated on March 24. Here’s a breakdown of those in Weber and Morgan counties who have received at least one vaccination dose, by age group. The figures reflect vaccinations as of Monday:
70 and over, 87% of the population, or 18,563 people;
60-69, 74%, or 18,351 people;
50-59, 55%, or 15,831 people;
40-49, 42%, or 14,066 people;
30-39, 32%, or 12,476 people;
16-29, 25%, or 14,867 people.
Overall, according to Weber-Morgan Health Department figures, 45.2% of people aged 16 and up in the two counties have received at least one vaccination dose.
In Davis County, around 86% of those aged 70 and up and 77% of those aged 65 through 69 have been fully vaccinated, according to Davis County Health Department figures. Nearly 50% of those aged 50 through 64 and around 20% of those aged 18 through 49 have been fully vaccinated. Overall, around 39% of the eligible population has received at least one vaccination dose and nearly 25% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Though officials aren’t reporting a clear-cut connection between age and willingness to be vaccinated, figures from the Johns Hopkins study, published March 24 and based on surveys last November and December, indicate different attitudes. Among those aged 60 and over, 61% said they intended to be vaccinated, 33% said they wanted to “wait and learn” and 6% said it was unlikely they’d be vaccinated. By contrast, among those aged 45 through 59, 30 through 44 and 18 through 29, just 46%, 48% and 50% of each pool, respectively, said they intended to be vaccinated. In those same age groups, 42%, 41% and 39%, respectively, said they wanted to “wait and learn” and 12%, 11% and 12% said it was unlikely they’d be vaccinated.
Regardless, another study of people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation shows attitudes changing as time passes. In a poll last October, 58% of those surveyed in the age groups said they would likely get vaccinated while in January, that figure, including people who had actually been vaccinated, had bumped up to 71%.
Angel Castillo, a community advocate in Ogden, has been more focused on addressing disparities in vaccination rates between white, non-Hispanic people and people of color, including Latinos and African Americans. She’s helping organize vaccination clinics in the city geared to people of color, who have lower vaccination rates than others, and among the younger segment of that population, she hasn’t noticed hesitation about being vaccinated.
“In fact, it seems to me they are very willing to be vaccinated so they can get ‘back to normal’ as quickly as possible,” she said. Bigger barriers to vaccination, in her view, are limited opportunities for “walk-in” vaccinations, those not requiring an appointment, and limited vaccination clinics on weekends and outside the traditional work hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In a bid to reach out to teens, the Davis County Health Department organized a series of vaccination clinics at Davis County high schools on Tuesday. Buttars said Weber-Morgan Health Department officials are mulling a similar outreach effort, though nothing definitive has yet been planned.