COVID-19 vaccination coverage for younger Americans has lagged behind rates for older adults, even since the vaccine became available to all adults nationally in mid-April, according to a study released on Monday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study determined that 80 percent of those aged 65 and older had received at least one vaccine dose by May 22, compared to 38.3 percent of those aged 18 to 29. Overall, 57 percent of American adults received at least one dose by then.
Vaccine coverage has also increased more slowly among younger adults compared to among older ones, according to the study.
Researchers predicted if current vaccination rates continue through August, coverage for young adults will “remain substantially lower than among older adults,” meaning the age group will be more at risk for cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
Initially in December, a CDC panel recommended that people aged 75 and older be prioritized to get the vaccine when the first two became available in the U.S. because older adults were more at risk for hospitalization and death.
The rate of weekly vaccination initiation — people getting their first shot — among those 65 and older peaked at 8.2 percent during the week beginning with Feb. 7, according to the research.
After the at-risk populations were prioritized, the vaccine officially became available to all Americans aged 16 and older by April 19, although some states offered the shots to that wider age range before that date.
But the weekly vaccination initiation rate decreased across all age groups from April 19 to May 22, with those aged 18 to 29 seeing a 1.7 percent drop in people getting their first shot. For 30- to 49-year-olds, there was a 1.8 percent reduction in vaccination initiation.
“Despite recently expanded eligibility for vaccination to all adults, increases in weekly initiation among younger age groups have not reached peak weekly initiation rates that occurred in January and February among adults aged ≥65 years,” the study said.
The CDC called for “continued efforts” to promote vaccinations, increase confidence in the shots and reduce barriers to getting vaccinated, particularly among those aged 18 to 49.
As of Sunday afternoon, the agency’s website says that 87.3 percent of all adults 65 and older have received at least one shot, compared to 65.4 percent of all U.S. adults.