With two viruses threatening to make older adults sick this winter, a new poll shows most people over 50 have gotten vaccines to protect them against both influenza and coronavirus, or plan to. And a majority of those who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine plan to get an additional dose to boost their level of protection.
But the poll, taken in mid-October, also reveals major differences in vaccine attitudes between older adults of different age groups, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and other characteristics including personal political leaning.
The new findings come from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.
The poll finds that 1 in 3 older adults feel it is more important to get vaccinated against the flu this year than in years before the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all of the rest said the importance this year is the same.
The Clalit Research Institute, in collaboration with researchers from Harvard University, analyzed one of the world’s largest integrated health record databases to examine the effectiveness of the third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech BNT162B2 vaccine against the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. The study provides the largest peer-reviewed evaluation of the effectiveness of a third “booster” dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in a nationwide mass-vaccination setting. The study was conducted in Israel, an early global leader in third-dose COVID-19 vaccination rates.
Many countries are currently experiencing a resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 infections despite hitherto successful vaccination campaigns. This may be due to the greater infectiousness of the delta (B.1.617.2) variant of SARS-CoV-2, and to waning immunity of vaccines administered months earlier. In the face of the current resurgence, several countries are planning to administer a third booster dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
This study suggests that a third vaccine dose is effective in reducing severe COVID-19-related outcomes compared to individuals who have received two vaccine doses at least 5 months ago. It is the first to estimate the effectiveness of a third dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine—BNT162b2 specifically—against severe outcomes with adjustment for various possible confounders, including comorbidities and behavioral factors. The study’s large size also allows a more precise assessment of the vaccine’s effectiveness across different time periods, different subpopulations (by sex, age and number of comorbidities), and different severe outcomes (which are rarer and thus require greater sample size). A recent clinical trial conducted by BioNTech included a smaller sample size and did not estimate the third-dose’s effects for more severe outcomes.
Every year the flu threatens the health of millions of people. Experts continue to recommend annual flu vaccination as the best line of defense, but despite these recommendations, flu vaccination rates haven’t broken 50% in more than a decade. New research in the INFORMS journal Management Science seeks to overcome this. The study finds that performance feedback at healthcare clinics can significantly increase vaccination rates. This has important public policy implications. Citing other research, the authors highlight that even just a 1% increase in U.S. adult flu vaccination rates could translate to some $400 million in societal benefits.
The study, “Focusing Provider Attention: An Empirical Examination of Incentives and Feedback in Flu Vaccinations,” was conducted by Bradley Staats and Robert Niewoehner III, both of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in partnership with VaxCare, a technology company that partners with clinics to coordinate vaccination logistics. The study looked at 145 clinics in nine different states and tested whether financial incentives or performance feedback might improve vaccination rates.
“We find clinics that got performance rankings grew their flu vaccinations more than all other clinics. Specifically, our experiment led to a 12% increase in flu shots for these clinics,” said Staats, a professor of operations and Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar, faculty director of the Center for the Business of Health and associate dean of MBA programs in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. “We also find that the clinics who received rankings don’t want to come in last – that is, they do whatever they can to avoid the bottom rankings. Because of this, in trying move up, the clinics near last-place end up outperforming their corresponding control clinics by 23 percentage points – a significant margin!”
This research stands to have a very large impact. If even just a portion of the increased vaccination rates go to at-risk groups, this could avert serious health consequences.
“Even further – if most of an increase in flu shots went to seniors, the CDC estimates that this could prevent thousands of hospitalizations,” said Niewoehner, a doctoral candidate in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Our study shows that behavioral interventions like our experiment can improve performance outcomes, even when targeting seemingly immutable trends, like flu vaccination rates. Going forward, we believe our findings hold great promise for improving public health and company operations in general.”
I would like to add a personal note here. Long before the pandemic raised the prospect of defensive vaccinations, I found that ‘flu shots’ was a hot button topic. I get a flu shot every year and I recommend that to everyone I can. In addition, I have an annual post “It’s time to get that flu shot.” Initially, I was amazed at the vitriolic responses from readers. After all, I was just passing along my doctor’s recommendation. So, vaccinations are a very sensitive subject in our culture. For the record, I get a flu shot every year, and I got the Pfizer-Biontec shots back in February and March of this year.
I am writing this to update you on my COVID shot situation. I got my first shot on February 11th. You can read about it in detail here . Actually, there was much more to that one as I had to walk my way through icy Chicago winter weather conditions to get to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, just over a mile from my apartment.
On Wednesday, morning, March third, I retraced my steps on a relatively balmy – 40 degree day. Much more pleasant walk.
I arrived around 10:00 AM for my shot and as occurred the first time, went right in. There was a huge lit up screen on the wall that read – 338 shots had been administered that morning.
The actual procedure lasted only minutes and I left to go to the OBSERVATION AREA two floors down to wait 15 minutes to confirm that there were no immediate ill effects.
As there weren’t, I left and decided to treat myself to a Starbucks cappuccino for the walk home.
This is Friday morning. I am happy to report that I experienced zero ill effects from the second shot – Not even a sore shoulder. Friends and neighbors have told me that they had a stronger reaction to the second jab than the first, including fatigue, headaches and soreness on the site. Lucky me.
I feel good about getting inoculated and I hope that you will, too. The Wall Street Journal had a wonderful positive article last month about us reaching Herd Immunity by April because of the sharp drop in cases, hospitalization and deaths in the past weeks.
Here are just a couple of paragraphs from the Journal:
“In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. Testing has been capturing only from 10% to 25% of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. Applying a time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55% of Americans have natural immunity.
“Now add people getting vaccinated. As of this week, 15% of Americans have received the vaccine, and the figure is rising fast. Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb estimates 250 million doses will have been delivered to some 150 million people by the end of March.”
I got jabbed yesterday. I joined the fastest growing club in the country Wednesday. I got my COVID-19 shot. As regular readers know, I turned 81 last month, so I am eligible. For the record, I was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine which has been granted Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Illinois Department of Health reports that so far some 1,000,000 people have received the first shot.
The hospital lies around a mile and a quarter from my apartment, so I walked it. Like much of the country, my home town of Chicago is under siege from Old Man Winter. The temp was barely into double digits on the Fahrenheit scale for my walk. Sadly, I have still not mastered wearing a mask with my glasses on and not getting them fogged up. By the time I got to the hospital, I carried my glasses in my hand and I was walking in a semi fog.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital is a huge complex of buildings and by the time I had navigated my way to the ‘correct’ section, I had added at least a quarter mile to my frigid hike.
On the positive side, the hospital was fully up for the occasion. I followed a string of other seniors up two flights. There were volunteers about every 20 feet or so to point us to exactly where we needed to be.
We arrived at a room about the size of a basketball court with dozens of tables placed about 10 feet apart with a health care worker seated at each one.
Over the course of about 10 minutes, my guy gave me the usual questions about any symptoms, etc., then proceeded to read through the various considerations with getting an Emergency Authorized vaccine.
As I had experienced severe side effects from my second shingles shot several months ago, I asked him if he had any stories to share with me about this shot. He said that he had experienced some soreness at the site and fatigue from his first shot and a little fever after the second one, but nothing dramatic.
I agreed that I was aware of the risks and was willing to get my shot. It was over in a second and maybe even quicker than my flu shot back in October.
Afterwards, I was directed to an area one floor down where I and everyone else who had a shot in the last quarter hour would ‘set a spell.’ This was to confirm that there were no immediate bad results from the shot.
I am writing this some five hours after the fact. Still no irksome side effects to speak of. Not even soreness in my shoulder.
As you know from my previous postings here, I am a big believer in getting inoculated. Will receive my second shot on March third and will update you then on my situation. In the meantime, I hope you will seriously consider getting one, too.
Almost seven in 10 Americans would be interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine when one becomes available, according to a new study. But researchers say there are concerning gaps in interest, particularly among Black Americans, who suffer disproportionately from the virus.
Researchers from The Ohio State University surveyed more than 2,000 Americans in May, asking them about their willingness to be vaccinated and 11 factors that could influence that decision. They found that 1,374 out of 2006 people in the survey, 69%, said they would “definitely” or “probably” get a vaccine. The survey found that 17% were “not sure” and 14% were “probably or “definitely” not willing.
The study, one of the first estimates of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance in the U.S., appears online in the journal Vaccine.
Lead researcher Paul Reiter, an associate professor of health behavior and health promotion, said he suspected there would be higher-than-normal interest in this vaccine, considering the nature of the pandemic and the severity of illness many people have experienced.