Being an old person myself, I am somewhat attuned to news items about how the pandemic is affecting that age cohort. It is well-documented that the virus has far more serious effects on older people and that the vaccine is their best bet to avoid serious illness and death. It is infuriating that so many older people have succumbed to the misinformation about the vaccines and not taken them.
David Leonhardt of the New York Times reviews the statistics. He says that while the number of cases and deaths are declining nationwide, it could have been much better among the older population.
About 1,500 Americans have died of Covid every day over the past week. For older age groups, the virus remains a leading cause of death. And the main reason is that millions of Americans have chosen to remain unvaccinated. Many of them are older and have underlying medical conditions, leaving them vulnerable to severe versions of Covid.
For older people, the effects of vaccination are profound. In late August, near the height of the Delta wave, 24 out of every 10,000 unvaccinated Americans 65 and above were hospitalized with Covid symptoms, according to the C.D.C. Among fully vaccinated Americans 65 and above, the number was 1.5 per 10,000.
Even so, many Americans are saying no to a shot. Among affluent countries, the U.S. is one of the least vaccinated, trailing Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and others. Less vaccination means more death:
The low vaccination rate in the U.S. is another consequence of our polarized politics and our high levels of socioeconomic inequality. Only 67 percent of American adults without a four-year college degree have received a shot, compared with 82 percent of college graduates, according to the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. And only 58 percent of self-identified Republicans are vaccinated, compared with 90 percent of Democrats.
It’s a triumph of misinformation. Offered a lifesaving drug to counteract a highly contagious virus, many Americans are instead choosing to take their chances.
When one gets older and one’s children get close to middle age, the tables get turned and they start urging healthy practices on their parents. Even though I think I am fairly conscientious about looking after my health, my daughters keep an eye on me and do not hesitate to remind me to get my shots (vaccine, flu, and others) and to eat healthily and get exercise. There have been many stories about younger people being exasperated by their parents succumbing to misinformation on Fox News and social media and refusing to get vaccinated and resenting their children’s expressions of concern. And sometimes it gets even worse if the parents start spouting conspiracy theories, resulting in a complete communication breakdown.
Polarized politics and rhetoric on an issue that should be utterly apolitical is killing people. As we saw in yesterday’s post, Puerto Rico has managed to become the most vaccinated region of the country. thanks largely to avoiding the polarization that plagues the rest of the country and also by having a public health system that took the vaccines to the people.