The first Americans over age 60 just started rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated against respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, now that brand-new vaccines have started to arrive at pharmacies and clinics.
Millions more older adults may do the same in coming weeks and months, a new University of Michigan poll suggests, as they seek protection against a virus that is especially good at infecting older lungs.
But nearly half of older adults do not know about the new RSV vaccines that received approval earlier this year, the poll finds. And some groups of older adults show much less interest in getting the RSV vaccine than others.
In all, 52% of people between the ages of 60 and 80 had heard the new vaccine option was coming, according to the new data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging gathered in July.
Asked how interested they are in getting vaccinated, 21% of those who answered said they're very interested, and another 43% said they're somewhat interested.
The virus poses the most danger to older adults who have lung, heart, kidney or immune system conditions, or diabetes, and those who live in nursing homes or other group settings. But only 41% of older adults who say their health is fair or poor had heard of the RSV vaccine, compared with 53% of those who rated their health as good to excellent.
On the other hand, over 65% of those with a chronic health condition said they were very or somewhat interested in getting the vaccine, whether or not they had heard of it before being polled.
Risk from RSV infection rises with age, and so did interest in getting vaccinated against it. In all, 70% of people in their 70s said they were very or somewhat interested in getting vaccinated, compared with 60% of those in their 60s.
As we prepare for the first RSV season when a vaccine will be available for older adults, these early data suggest a need for public health officials, primary care providers, pharmacies and others to target their outreach and awareness-building efforts."
Preeti Malani, MD, Senior Advisor, Michigan Medicine-University of Michigan
o the poll who has training in geriatrics as well as infectious disease and is a physician at Michigan Medicine, U-M's academic medical center.
She added, "We found an association between awareness and interest, with 68% of those who had heard of the vaccine saying they were very interested or somewhat interested in getting vaccinated, compared with 60% who hadn't heard of the vaccine until asked by the poll team."
The poll is based at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine.