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Younger adults are less likely to get vaccinated than their elders, CDC studies show

Manuel Bonilla, 80, received a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event in Miami in May.
Manuel Bonilla, 80, received a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event in Miami in May.SAUL MARTINEZ/NYT

Younger Americans are less likely to be vaccinated than their elders, and factors such as income and education may affect COVID vaccine hesitancy, according to two new studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By May 22, 57% of adults had received at least one dose, the authors of one of the new papers found, but the rate varied considerably by age: Among those 65 or older, 80% had been at least partially vaccinated, compared with 38% of those between 18 and 29.

Some of the gap in rates could be attributed to the fact that many young adults did not become eligible for vaccination until March or April. But uptake has also been slower among younger Americans, and a substantial proportion of them remain hesitant.

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If vaccine initiation rates remain stable, by late August, just 58% of 18- to 29-year-olds will have been vaccinated, compared with 95% of those 65 or older, the researchers found.

Vaccination rates lagged for young men, people living in rural counties and people living in counties where a high share of the population was low-income, uninsured or lacked access to a computer or the internet.

In a second study, 24.9% of 18- to 39-year-olds surveyed said they would probably or definitely not get vaccinated. Those who were young, Black, low-income, lacked health insurance, lived outside of metropolitan areas or had lower levels of education were less likely to report being vaccinated or to say that they definitely planned to be vaccinated.

The studies highlight the hurdles that remain in improving vaccine coverage, with two weeks to go until President Joe Biden’s self-imposed July 4 deadline for getting 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated. In recent weeks, as demand for the vaccines has slowed, his administration has shifted its approach, moving away from mass vaccination sites and adopting more targeted strategies, including the creation of mobile or pop-up vaccination clinics and on-site vaccination events at Black-owned barbershops.

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The U.S. vaccination campaign began Dec. 14, 2020. Health care workers, adults who were 75 or older and members of other high-risk groups were generally the first to become eligible, although vaccine policies varied from state to state. By April 19, all adults were eligible for the shots. Using vaccination data submitted by the states, a team of CDC researchers analyzed vaccination patterns in various demographic groups.

They also calculated the percentage of people in each age bracket who received their first dose during a given week. This vaccine “initiation rate” was highest for adults 65 or older, peaking during the week of Feb. 7, when 8% of adults in that group received their first dose.

Between April 19 and May 22, the share of 18- to 29-year-olds who received their first dose fell to 1.9% from 3.6%.

“If the current rate of vaccination continues through August, coverage among young adults will remain substantially lower than among older adults,” the researchers wrote.

In the second study, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of adults, including 2,726 18- to 39-year olds, between March 5 and May 2. Among those who said they would probably or definitely not get the vaccine, 57% said they did not trust the vaccine, while 56% expressed concern about possible side effects and 36% said they did not think they needed the shot.

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The study also pointed to potential strategies for increasing vaccination coverage. Among those who said they were unsure about or would probably get the vaccine, 20% to 40% said they would be more likely to get it if they had more information about its safety and effectiveness, if it would prevent them from spreading the virus to family and friends, or if it would allow them to return to normal social activities.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.