Seniors Intend to Receive Variant-Specific COVID Booster This Fall

Eliza Partika

August 12, 2022

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

More than 60% of Americans older than age 50, and nearly 70% of those older than 65, say they intend to roll up their sleeves to prevent COVID-19 this fall.

That finding comes from a new poll by researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who also report that when it comes to the shots, people appear to be putting more trust in their healthcare professionals than in public health authorities.

"When you are a doctor, you are a trusted source of medical information," said Preeti Malani, MD, MSJ, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Michigan. "Use the ongoing conversation with your patient as an opportunity to answer their questions and counter any confusion."

The vaccination campaign appears to be having a rub-off effect, too. More people say they're likely to receive vaccines and boosters for other infections, such as flu, if they have already been vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.

Inside the Poll

Malani and her colleagues, who published their findings on the National Poll on Healthy Aging's website, asked 1024 adults older than 50 about their attitudes on COVID-19 vaccinations and their history of receiving the injections. The questions covered topics including whether the individual had contracted COVID, COVID vaccine doses, and the prevalence of a healthcare clinician's opinion on vaccines and boosters. The poll was conducted July 21-26.

The researchers chose the age range of 50-65 years because this group is an important population for new booster shots that target specific variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Only 19% of people aged 50-64 and 44% of those older than 65 said they had received both their first and second COVID-19 booster shots. What's more, 17% of people said they had not received any doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The vast majority (77%) of respondents said their clinician's recommendations were "very important" or "somewhat important" in their decision to receive the vaccine. 

Malani said in her practice patients have expressed hesitation about COVID-19 vaccines because of concerns about the potential side effects of the shots.

Monica Gandhi, MD, MPH, professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, noted that Americans now appear to trust their physicians more than public health authorities such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it comes to COVID-19.

"More people are trusting their providers' opinions [more] than the CDC or other public health agencies. That speaks volumes to me," Gandhi said.

Among the more surprising findings of the poll, according to the researchers, was the number of people who said they had yet to contract COVID-19: 50% of those aged 50-64, and 69% of those older than 65. (Another 12% of those aged 50-64 said they were unsure if they'd ever had the infection.)

Malani said she hoped future studies would explore in depth the people who remain uninfected with COVID-19.

"We focus a lot on the science of COVID," she said. "But we need to turn our attention to the behavioral aspects and how to address them."

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