Record editorial: Vaccination of older residents looms as a battle won in war against the pandemic
In the first weeks of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Summit County, there was consternation among many older adults in the community at how slowly the rollout was proceeding.
The frustration was understandable. The prospect of protection from the deadly disease has seemed tantalizingly close since the first vaccines were approved late last year, yet supply shortfalls meant there were not enough shots even for many people in the age groups most vulnerable to COVID-19’s devastating effects.
Fortunately, the wait is nearing its end for the Summit County residents who face the greatest risk of serious illness or death from the disease, a development that is perhaps the most tangible victory in the community’s yearlong fight against the coronavirus and one that means we will see fewer hospitalizations and deaths through the end of the pandemic.
According to Summit County, all residents 70 and older who want the vaccine will be able to get one by early this month. The county expects that, by the end of March, everyone between 65 and 69 will also get their first dose.
It will still be months before community-wide vaccination becomes possible and we can truly put the coronavirus behind us, but inoculating the older population is nonetheless a major milestone. Statewide, 17.5% of people between 65 and 84 who contracted the disease have required hospitalization, while nearly 80% of all deaths in Utah have been among people 65 and older.
Summit County-specific data is limited, but at least seven of the nine county residents who have died from COVID-19 were 65 and older, and it’s reasonable to assume a significant percentage of the 147 residents who have been hospitalized were also in the age group.
Now, the older population is being counted in a much more optimistic category: those inoculated against the coronavirus.
Doubtless, that’s a relief to those receiving the shots, as well as their children and grandchildren who’ve spent the past year worrying about their health. For many families it still won’t be time to ease up on safety measures, or for grandchildren to throw their arms around grandparents, but the vaccinations provide a level of peace of mind that has been absent since last March.
The day is soon coming when vaccines will be available for the rest of the population, as well. But for now, knowing the most vulnerable among us have — or are close to receiving — protection from this terrible, deadly disease is cause for celebration.
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