The vast majority of U.S. residents over the age of 64 have not received a coronavirus vaccine, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Even though they are most vulnerable to severe illness and death from the virus, only 29% of Americans older than 64 years old have received a vaccination.
The percentage of adults 65 and older who have received at least one vaccine dose ranges from a low of 10% in Pennsylvania to a high of 34% in West Virginia among states that report vaccination data based on age, according to the study published Monday.
COVID-19 has disproportionately affected older adults, with hospitalization rates almost 2 times higher and death rates more than 9 times higher for people 65 to 74 years old than for people 40 to 49 years old.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia were reporting some vaccination data by age as of Feb. 4, but not all of these jurisdictions expanded eligibility for shots to people 65 and older.
Although older adults are among the first to be inoculated, jurisdictions are juggling to vaccinate other priority groups such as health care workers and people ages 16 to 64 with preexisting medical conditions.
“It is clear that age is a major risk factor for severe COVID-19. The early priority group did include nursing home residence, which overlaps almost entirely with those above the age of 65,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar for Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who was not involved with the analysis. “I do think that as we move to vaccinate more of the population, an age-based system may be easier to implement while still targeting those at highest risk for complications.”
Among 15 jurisdictions with data on people 65 and older, eight reported vaccination rates in the 20% range: Wisconsin, New Jersey, Michigan, the District, Texas, Delaware, Mississippi and Florida.
Minnesota and Missouri reported vaccination rates of 18% for the age group, while Kansas and Nebraska reported a 15% rate, the Kaiser Family analysis shows.
North Carolina trailed second behind West Virginia, with 32% of people older than 64 receiving a vaccine dose. The low rate in Pennsylvania could be partially attributed to the absence of data from Philadelphia County, the researchers note.
Thirteen states have reported vaccination data on people 60 and older, ranging from 9% in Rhode Island to 37% in Alaska. Massachusetts has recorded that 6% of people 70 and older received at least one dose.
Twenty-one percent of adults 60 and older in Virginia and 15% in Maryland have received at least one vaccine dose.
“Vaccination rates among older adults, as among other populations, are influenced by many factors, but perhaps the most significant determinant is that demand for the vaccine continues to exceed supply, and states often do not know how much supply they are going to have in a given week,” the researchers wrote.
“Furthermore, older adults have reportedly faced a host of problems getting vaccinated, including not knowing how to schedule appointments or where to get vaccinated, waiting in long lines, or arriving for an appointment to find vaccines no longer available,” the analysis states.
Older adults also could lose out on first-come, first-served appointment sign-ups offered online since almost 1 in 5 of people 65 and older do not have internet access or might not be as technologically savvy, the report notes.
More than 42 million vaccine doses have been administered nationwide as of last week, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, more than 32 million people have received at least one dose while 9.5 million have received two doses.
Nearly 13% of people in the U.S., which has a population about 328 million, have received at least one shot. Across the U.S., more than 54 million people are 65 years or older, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.