More than 70 percent of Americans who are 65 years of age or older are fully vaccinated, and 84 percent have received at least one dose, a much higher proportion than younger Americans. The numbers have exceeded President Biden’s goal of at least partially vaccinating 70 percent of the country’s adults by July 4.
Some counties have well exceeded that threshold, shooting more than 90 percent of residents aged 65 and over, and setting an example for other areas where vaccination campaigns have lagged.
Two of the most populous counties, at more than 90 percent, are Jo Daviess County, Illinois, across the Mississippi from Dubuque, Iowa, and Dane County, Wisconsin, including Madison, the state’s capital.
Elected and health officials in both counties suggested that some of the actions they have taken on the ground, such as expanding access and relying on trusted medical people to share information about vaccines, are also reflected in the federal government’s strategy, those to reach that they haven’t received shots yet after the vaccination rate has lagged in the past few weeks.
President Biden has pushed for tens of thousands of pharmacies so people can get their vaccinations and ordered pop-up and mobile clinics, especially in rural areas. The administration also seeks help from general practitioners and other trusted messengers to increase confidence in the vaccines.
On Thursday, Mr Biden praised another incentive: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that people who have been fully vaccinated can go without a mask in most situations.
In Dane County, district manager Joe Parisi said this week that a series of efforts have contributed to his district’s success to at least partially vaccinate most of the nearly 78,000 people aged 65 and over who live in the district. According to local and state data, over 90 percent of this group had been fully vaccinated by Friday.
Officials tried to maximize access to the vaccine. According to Morgan Finke, a spokeswoman for the county health department, they set up a mass vaccination facility in December at the Alliant Energy Center, an arena and exhibition complex in Madison, and distributed vaccines to health centers, pharmacies and mobile vaccination clinics.
Mr Parisi said the county has worked with local hospital systems, health care providers, senior care centers and nursing homes to locate people from their home country and help them take pictures.
You did not encounter much hesitation. “People wanted the vaccine,” said Parisi, “that certainly wasn’t the problem with this age group.”
Even so, it is very important to foster trust and answer people’s questions, especially now that the most ardent recipients have already finished. Mr Parisi said the county teamed up with trusted local doctors to promote the vaccines through local news media.
“We tried to share as much information as possible,” said Parisi, “by providing the voices that are non-judgmental and can answer questions.”
In Jo Daviess County, northwest Illinois, communication and community partnerships also play an important role, Lori Stangl, the county’s clinical services director, wrote in an email.
Of the approximately 6,000 senior citizens in the district, 96.7 percent were fully vaccinated as of Friday, according to the CDC. Ms. Stangl credited extensive collaboration both within the county and with neighboring counties and states.
“Since Jo Daviess County’s borders with Iowa and Wisconsin, many of our residents were able to get vaccines there,” Ms. Stangl wrote, “especially early when our allocations were low.”
Although the district managers celebrate their success with seniors, they are aware that there are still many younger people to be reached. By Friday, 54.9 percent of the county’s total population had been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC