Age is the most important risk factor for Covid-19. It has been clear from the beginning that the older you are, the higher your risk of death from this virus pandemic. Yet many of our most elderly population have still not been vaccinated.
Seniors over 75 years of age and healthcare workers were the first demographic to be eligible for vaccination. Those living in nursing homes were quickly vaccinated, but many elderly people are still living in their own homes. These are the ones lagging behind in vaccination rates.
According to a report in The Orlando Sentinel, the vaccination rates for people 85 years and above have fallen below the rate for younger age groups, even though these older people are at greatest risk. Two reasons for this have been established: lack of access to the internet and the absence of a car. Many elderly citizens lack the skills and access to a computer to make the needed appointments for vaccination. Often, they depend on others for transportation and this adds to the difficulty of getting vaccinated.
The vaccination rate for individuals 85 years and older is 55% compared to 63% for people aged 65 to 84, according to statistics generated by Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa. This gap has been growing since early February, with the older group falling further behind. Salemi says the gap may have arisen after the campaign to vaccinate seniors at assisted living facilities.
The existing obstacles to getting a vaccine are often worse for older people, said Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, chairwoman of the Epidemiology Department at Florida International University. She said, “If an 85-year-old has a family member to help them make appointments and get to appointments, it’s doable. If otherwise, it can be extremely difficult.”
Seniors were made the highest priority by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis because they were at the greatest risk. The chance of dying from Covid skyrockets with age. About one in four people aged 85 and up who get Covid die from the disease, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Health. Although this age demographic accounts for only 2% of Floridians, it accounts for 32% of deaths in the state.
Governor DeSantis has just announced the lowering of the age of eligibility for vaccination to those age 60 and above. This will greatly expand the number of people getting shots. But many very elderly are getting left behind. To address this problem, the state established a new way for homebound seniors to obtain the vaccines. To sign up for a home visit for vaccination, email HomeboundVaccine@em.myflorida.com (if you have a computer!). The state has “strike teams” to administer the vaccines and to date about 1,500 people have been vaccinated by them.
Concerned citizens should contact those elderly people they know to be sure they have been vaccinated, or to assist them in getting vaccinated. It could be a life-saving gesture for those seniors among us who are most vulnerable.