The long-awaited vaccine to protect against COVID-19 is being distributed to health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, and, in some states, older adults who live in the community.
Some state and local governments have encountered administrative difficulties and disruptions, slowing the roll out. These problems, coupled with the fact that vaccine supplies are still much lower than the demand, is causing frustration and confusion for many people. To address these concerns, the Biden administration has announced that they are working to purchase more doses, increase distribution to states, and provide states with more clarity and guidance about how many doses they can expect and when they can expect them. The administration and public health officials hope increased supply plus improved communication, will get more doses to people who want them. Medicare Rights welcomes these policy shifts, many of which we outlined in our recent memo to the Biden transition team.
At the same time, other public health experts are turning their attention to providing accurate and useful information to people who may be concerned or apprehensive about getting the vaccine. It is essential to combat dangerous misinformation and to address genuine apprehension so that as many people as possible are protected against serious illness caused by the coronavirus. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) report about vaccine hesitancy highlights that older adults are among the most likely to say that they intend to get the vaccine “as soon as they can,” but that one-third of people who are not yet vaccinated believe or are unsure about some common vaccine myths – including that people will have to pay out of pocket for the vaccine.
KFF also reports that knowing someone who has been vaccinated is correlated with vaccine enthusiasm – if you know someone who has been vaccinated personally, you are more likely to be eager to get the vaccine yourself. This is both hopeful and worrisome, because Black and Hispanic adults and those with lower incomes are less likely than their white and higher-income counterparts to say that they have personally received at least one dose or that they know someone who has. Hopefully, as more people get the vaccine, more people will know someone who has received it and will be more enthusiastic. More must be done, however, to effectively communicate with and improve distribution to Black, Hispanic and lower-income adults.
People who wished to “wait and see” before getting the vaccine or those who reported that they were “not likely” to get the vaccine said that the most powerful messages were those that stressed the effectiveness of the vaccine and its role in helping us return to a more normal life. The survey indicates that people are looking to a wide range of trusted sources for information about the vaccine, including 79% who say they would be likely to turn to a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider; 60% who say they’d be likely to turn to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 58% who would turn to family or friends; 57% who would look to their state or local health department; and 54% who would turn to a pharmacist.
While health authorities and professionals play a huge role in promoting and providing accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccines, each of us can help as well. We can tell others why we have decided to get the vaccine, and those of us who are vaccinated can share that with our friends and families so that more people know someone who has gotten the vaccine. And we can be on the lookout for common rumors and misinformation, and direct people to accurate, unbiased information.
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