Flu vaccine

Perceived costs, potential side effects and expected availability of a COVID-19 vaccine are potential barriers to vaccination for older adults, a nationwide survey has found.

In the SilverSneakers Pulse survey of almost 4,000 older adults from 49 states, 85% of respondents said they will take the COVID-19 vaccine at some point, with 47% stating they plan to get a vaccine immediately or within one month of availability.

One in three respondents said they are hesitant and prefer to wait at least three months before vaccination for the coronavirus. Approximately 15% of all respondents said they have no plans to get vaccinated, with 84% of those respondents citing concerns about side effects.

Approximately six in 10 respondents said they believe they will have to pay for a vaccine. The responses come despite assurances from public health authorities that the vaccine will be offered at no cost and older adults will be prioritized for vaccination.

“Now that we are seeing momentum toward a vaccine, all organizations who serve seniors in the public and private sectors need to consider how we can support awareness, education, distribution and adoption,” said Richard Ashworth, president and CEO of Tivity Health, one company offering the SilverSneakers fitness program for older adults. 

Delivery sources

When it comes to delivery sources, 84% of survey respondents said they would feel comfortable receiving the vaccine from their primary care providers, whereas 60% said they would be satisfied going to a pharmacy or drugstore, and 33% said they were comfortable with a clinic or urgent care location.

Only 23% of respondents said they would feel safe receiving the vaccine in a hospital.

Trusted sources

In terms of trusted sources of vaccine information, respondents cited primary care physicians (78%), health plans (63%) and pharmacists (53%) as the most trusted non-government sources. Top trusted government sources are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (68%), National Institutes of Health (64%) and the Food and Drug Administration (63%).

Trust was 49% for state authorities and 44% for local authorities. 

Contrasting perceptions

Contrasting perceptions between a COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine, 81% of respondents indicated that they already had received a flu vaccine, with 38% saying they went to a pharmacy or drug store for vaccination. Ashworth said this finding represents an opportunity to use best practices from flu and pneumonia vaccine education awareness and distribution campaigns to increase adoption of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The good news is that many seniors are already predisposed to take the vaccine, but concerns linger about cost and prioritization,” Ashworth said. “A coordinated awareness and education effort led by public health organizations and supported by healthcare stakeholders in the private sector could increase both the rate of acceptance and speed of adoption.”

The survey was distributed via SilverSneakers newsletter subscribers, with the majority of respondents aged 65 to 74 years.