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Young adults still least likely to get vaccinated

(AP Photo/John Bompengo)

We already learned that Joe Biden missed his goal of having 70% of the adult U.S. population vaccinated by the 4th of July. Looking back to where things stood only a couple of months ago, that seemed like a modest goal at the time. We were vaccinating millions of people per day and vaccination pods had people lined up around the block and reservation systems were scheduling people weeks or even months in advance. But then, as fast as the vaccination rate had risen, it started to fall. And it fell quickly. For all the talk of vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans and white Republicans, there’s one group that is truly staying away in droves. As the Wall Street Journal reports this weekend, young adults are still among the least likely to rush out and get a jab in the arm.

Millions of Americans have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated against Covid-19, but one group is well behind: young adults.

Their reluctance is a significant part of why the U.S. missed the Biden administration’s goal of getting 70% of the adult population a first dose by July 4, and it is impeding efforts to develop the communitywide immunity sought to move past the pandemic and fend off Delta and other variants.

Now government health authorities are dialing up efforts encouraging 18- to 29-year-olds to get vaccinated.

The difference between different age groups is stark. We have now reached the point where vaccination rates among those over age 60 is about to top 80%. Conversely, among those aged 18-29, 38% have received at least one dose and the percentage that is fully vaccinated is even lower.

The reasons being given by survey respondents in this age group will sound familiar to most of you with one notable exception. The most common responses included”

  • Concerns over possible side-effects
  • Mistrust of the vaccines
  • Waiting to see if the vaccine is safe
  • Don’t feel that a vaccination is needed

It’s that fourth one that doesn’t show up nearly as often in the older age groups. One respondent is quoted as saying, “I’m 18 and never really had any health problems. I’m not too worried about it. It doesn’t really scare me.”

If these people have been following the ongoing flood of news reports about the pandemic, it’s hard to fault them too much. People in that age group who don’t have any underlying respiratory or other health problems have better than a 99% chance of surviving COVID if they catch it. And their odds of not even needing to go into an ICU bed are nearly as good. The odds are mightily in their favor and it sounds like most of them know this.

But at the same time, some of the finer details in the ongoing studies may give them pause as we continue to learn more. For example, no matter what age you are, if you survive the original, garden-variety strain of COVID, the antibodies you come away with are essentially useless against the Delta variant, so you may have to go through it twice. And some healthy adults who survive the disease have developed long-term respiratory issues.

The problem is, the virus is still too new, as are the vaccines. We just don’t know all of the ups and downs that will emerge in medical studies after hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated and several years have passed. So I suppose I’m not going to fault these young people who are deciding to roll the dice and tough out the pandemic without getting jabbed. But I remain confident that we’re going to get through this one way or the other and the world needs to get back about its business, while keeping an eye on the test results.