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The next vaccine challenge: reassuring elderly Americans

Dr. Timothy Farrell, a geriatrician at the University of Utah, said he was surprised but delighted with the effectiveness of the vaccines in this group. “It will be very important to see the analysis of the subgroups,” he said – that is, whether there are any significant differences after 85 years.

Despite this, he recommended the vaccine to all of his patients, aged 65 to 106.

“We have a clear and current danger from Covid, and we have social isolation,” Dr Farrell said. “We know it’s an independent risk factor for mortality, even stronger than individual chronic diseases.”

Dr Inouye also came to the same conclusion, both professionally and personally.

Her 91-year-old mother, who lives in an assisted living facility, is independent and dynamic, continues to play piano and bridge and exercises regularly. Yet her mother’s age, state of health and living situation place her at “a very, very, very high risk of Covid,” said Dr Inouye.

“We are desperately worried about her every day,” she added. “When you balance this huge fear, I just think the risk for her of contracting Covid is so much higher than the risk of a side effect, which we know will be very rare.

For many people, the prospect of getting a new vaccine against a new virus is daunting.

Fear of side effects dissuaded Jeffrey Balkind’s wife from volunteering for vaccine trials, but Mr Balkind, 74, has watched death twice – once during a 13-day hijacking at the Pakistan in 1981, and again three years ago when his Vespa crashed.

“When you’ve had near-death experiences twice, volunteering for a vaccine trial, it wasn’t a great sense of worry or apprehension for me,” Balkind said.

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