COVID-19 in the U.S: When a vaccine is found, who is most likely to be immunised?

by Anastasia Moloney | @anastasiabogota | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 27 August 2020 17:00 GMT

A scientist conducts research on a vaccine for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at the laboratories of RNA medicines company Arcturus Therapeutics in San Diego, California, U.S., March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan

Image Caption and Rights Information

If you're white, over 75 and insured, you're more likely to get a vaccine

Coronavirus is changing the world in unprecedented ways. Subscribe here for a briefing twice a week on how this global crisis is affecting cities, technology, approaches to climate change, and the lives of vulnerable people.

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, Aug 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As the global race for a COVID-19 vaccine heats up, experts are studying the uptake of other vaccines to understand how demographics can determine who is most likely to get immunized.

A study by University of California, San Francisco, found that flu vaccination rates in the United States can depend on a person's income, race, gender, healthcare insurance and living place.

Here are the key takeaways:

Why it matters:

The flu killed 34,200 Americans from 2018 to 2019 yet only one in three adults in the United States received the flu vaccine.

This fall, the coexistence of COVID-19 and the flu will pressure healthcare systems and lead to tens of thousands of deaths, the study said.

Knowing which groups in society end up getting vaccines can help public health officials target specific communities and areas of the country.

It also may raise questions about making flu and COVID-19 vaccines more accessible, free of charge or mandatory.

 

Do demographics dictate vaccine uptake?

A person's age, whether they have health insurance and a personal doctor, are the factors that most dictate if someone gets a flu shot, the study found.

Among people aged over 75, three in every five had taken a flu vaccine, while 23% of people aged 18 to 24 had one.

Among people without medical insurance 16% were vaccinated, while nearly 42% of people with insurance got the flu vaccine.

Does income play a role?

Variation by income group was smaller but it still played a role.

More than a third of people with a household income of less than $15,000 were vaccinated, while nearly 42% of people with an income of more than $50,000 had received the flu shot.

Race also has an impact. White Americans, followed by Asians, were most likely to be vaccinated against the flu when compared with other ethnic groups. Hispanics were least likely to be vaccinated (28.9%), followed by Black Americans (33.9%).

Men were less likely than women to receive flu shots, with nearly 37% of men getting one compared to nearly 42% of women.

Where are flu vaccination rates the lowest?

Texas, Louisiana and New York where among the states with the lowest vaccination rates where less than a third of people were vaccinated.

   

The bigger picture:-

Mass vaccination is one way to get herd immunity, meaning a large portion of a community developing a degree of immunity to a virus, thereby reducing person-to-person spread.

It's not clear what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated for herd immunity to kick in, with estimates ranging from 50% to 80%.

   

What happens next:

Questions are being raised about making both flu and COVID-19 vaccines free of charge and or mandatory to achieve herd immunity and to ensure the poorest and most vulnerable get vaccinated.

In the United States, health committees have been created to decide who gets the COVID-19 vaccine first.

   

Related stories:

Wear a face mask? Many in the U.S. say no, while in Latin America most say yes

With mobile units, Philadelphia doctor brings coronavirus testing to the city's Black communities

U.S. doctors group calls for transparency in COVID-19 vaccine development

(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney; Editing by Tom Finn. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)