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Fears over virus persist among vaccinated elderly


On this Monday, September 27, 2021, the photo Bronwyn Russell poses for a photo at her home in Des Plaines, Illinois. Russell, who received the COVID-19 vaccine, wears a mask every time she leaves her Illinois home. “I’m worried. I don’t want to get sick,” Russell says. AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh

Bronwyn Russell wears a mask every time she leaves her home in Illinois, though she wouldn’t dream of going out to eat or hearing a band play, let alone setting foot on a plane. In Virginia, Oliver Midgette rarely dons a mask, never lets COVID-19 worry and happily finds himself in restaurants and among the crowds.

She is vaccinated. He is not.

In a sign of the radically different way Americans see the coronavirus pandemic, vaccinated seniors are much more concerned about the virus than unvaccinated people and much more likely to take precautions despite the protection offered by their injections, according to a new survey released Wednesday from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

As a growing number of unvaccinated seniors plan trips, host group gatherings, and return to gyms and places of worship, the vaccinated are retreating.

“I’m worried. I don’t want to get sick,” says Russell, a 58-year-old man from Des Plaines, Ill., Who seeks part-time work while collecting disability benefits. living their lives are just in their own little bubbles of selfishness and don’t believe the facts. “

As the delta variant of the virus has fueled new waves of infection, the survey of people 50 and over found 36% are very or extremely worried that they or a family member is infected, roughly double since June. The increase is fueled by the vaccinated, who are most likely to be very worried. Only 25% of Americans vaccinated, but 61% of Americans not vaccinated, say they are not worried.

This worry is taking its toll: People concerned about COVID-19 are less likely to rate their quality of life, mental and emotional health, and social activities and relationships as excellent or very good.

The dichotomy is both peculiar and trivial: although the unvaccinated are most at risk of infection, their refusal of injections shows that many are convinced that the threat is exaggerated.

Midgette, a 73-year-old retired electronics salesman in Norfolk, Va., Blames the government for stoking the fear, but he doesn’t believe it. He says again that “life is normal” and that the only thing he misses is going on a cruise with his wife because of the vaccination requirements. It won’t convince him.

“I grew up in the good old days. I ate dirt. I drank water from the pipe. I played outside. I don’t live in a cage right now, ”he says.

About two-thirds of people aged 50 or older say they rarely or never feel isolated, but about half of those most worried about COVID-19 say they have felt that way at least sometimes at least sometimes. during the last month.

Kathy Paiva, a 70-year-old retired bartender from Palm Coast, Florida, says she feels the weight of staying home.

“My life is more limited than it ever has been,” says Paiva. “I’m afraid to go anywhere right now. I too would like to go out to eat, but I will not put anyone’s life in danger, especially mine.

Her son died of a heart attack in January. In July, she and her closest confidante, her 67-year-old sister, both fell ill with COVID-19. Paiva, who is vaccinated, survived. His sister, who was not, did not.

About 1 in 4 seniors, including about a third of those most worried about COVID-19, say their social lives and relationships have deteriorated in the past year.

The survey found that vaccinated seniors are more likely than unvaccinated people to say they often avoid large groups, wear a mask outside their home, and avoid non-essential travel. Compared with June, people vaccinated were less likely to say they would travel or visit bars and restaurants in the coming weeks.

Dr Irwin Redlener, public health expert and founding director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, said fear of the virus in unvaccinated people is lower due to their “disregard for science” .

“People who have been vaccinated have generally accepted the scientific realities of risk. They read reports of new variants or mutations, they read stories about breakthroughs, ”he said.

All of this fuels vaccine anxiety, said Redlener, compounded by a loss of confidence in experts and officials and their shifting directions, most recently on the issue of booster injections.

Lee Sharp, a 54-year-old information technology consultant from Houston, who was so seriously ill with COVID-19 last year that he made sure his wife knew how to access all of her accounts, said At first thought he would get vaccinated as soon as the shots were available. But over the months, the force with which the vaccines were pushed made him unwilling to get one.

“Over time, I have less and less confidence. “The masks do nothing! “” Masks do something! “” You need two masks! “No, you need four masks!” “” You need disposable masks! “” No, cloth masks are OK! He said in exasperation. “What the hell?”

Linda Wells, a 61-year-old retired high school administrator in San Francisco, says the challenge has been daunting. She received her injections and a booster, but because of an arthritis medication she is taking, her doctors told her that she was in the “nebulous zone of not knowing if I am protected”.

She would love to go for a swim in a community pool or get on a plane to see a play in Los Angeles or visit nieces in Arizona. She would like to dine in a restaurant or go shopping quietly. She doesn’t, for fear of infection.

“I’m dependent on what other people do and, you know, I did everything I could do. I wear a mask. I had the vaccine. And for people to be so selfish that they don’t do that, it’s ridiculous, ”she said. “A stubborn point of view prevents them from solving a health crisis. “


The AP-NORC survey of 1,015 people aged 50 and over was conducted from August 20 to 23, using a nationally representative sample drawn from the Foresight 50+ Panel based on probabilities, developed by NORC at the University of Chicago. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

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