Mar 9, 2021 - Health

Many vulnerable Americans have received the coronavirus vaccine

Data: CDC, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: CDC, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than two-thirds of Americans 75 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, as have more than half of those 65-74, per CDC data.

Why it matters: Any future surge in cases almost certainly wouldn't be as deadly as previous waves, because older people are the most likely to die from the virus.

What they're saying: "Measuring the risk from Covid is no longer primarily about tallying daily cases or analyzing the positivity rate. As the most vulnerable Americans are increasingly being protected by vaccines, it’s also about assessing the number of people developing severe disease," former FDA Commissioners Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

  • Although the virus isn't going to go completely away, "the goal should be for hospitalization rates to resemble those associated with routine infectious diseases."

Yes, but: Millions of younger Americans have pre-existing conditions that also make them vulnerable to the virus, and the vaccination effort has often prioritized age above underlying conditions.

  • In many states, people with underlying conditions still aren't eligible for the vaccine, per KFF.
  • Risk of infection — including via work — has also generally fallen lower on the priority list, which impacts people of color disproportionately.
  • White people have received a higher share of vaccinations than their portion of the population in most states that report such data, also per KFF.

The bottom line: The vaccination effort still has a long way to go, and researchers are still evaluating the effectiveness of the vaccines against new virus variants.

  • But millions of older Americans — and their loved ones — can breathe a collective sigh of relief for the first time in a year.
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