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Dec. 21, 2020, 5:04 a.m. EST

Some older Americans are lining up for COVID vaccine—but others are more cautious

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Arlene Weintraub

Dorothy Sauser-Monnig, of St. Paul, Minn., considers a COVID-19 vaccine her ticket to travel again. David Bakke, of Atlanta, said no to the flu vaccine in the past, but he got that shot this year and intends to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Carol Gee, of Atlanta, is a bit more cautious, but she hopes the COVID-19 vaccine will offer protection against the potentially serious complications the virus could cause for her and her husband, both of whom suffer from Type 2 diabetes.

Sauser-Monnig, Bakke and Gee, all over 50, are among the growing number of Americans who are expressing cautious enthusiasm for the coming wave of COVID-19 vaccines. The percentage of Americans who say they intend to get vaccinated is now over 80% —up from 51% in September — a new poll from ABC News/Ipsos reveals.

Among adults over 50, receptiveness toward vaccination is at 58%, with those over 65 citing the highest level of interest, according to the University of Michigan’s recent  National Poll on Healthy Aging , which surveyed Americans age 50 to 80.

And while there are still pockets of resistance to the vaccine, particularly in communities of color, public health experts are optimistic that more of the population will come around to the idea of rolling up their sleeves to get the shot.

“The first vaccinations are likely going to be among health care workers, and I think it will be important for the general public to see these doctors and nurses lining up,” says Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. “Even though the vaccines were developed rather quickly, people will say, ‘If they think it’s safe, then it’s safe for me, too.'”

See: Here’s when most Americans will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine

The first COVID-19 vaccine on the market, from Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +1.16% and rolling out across the country this week, uses a new technology called mRNA, which consists of bits of genetic material from the virus that stimulate the immune system to make antibodies against it. Moderna’s /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -0.10% mRNA vaccine is expected to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) soon. There are no other mRNA vaccines on the market, a novelty factor that makes some people uncomfortable.

Pfizer’s data from its Phase 3 trial shows its vaccine is 95% effective across demographic groups, with no major side effects reported.

When Next Avenue asked  readers on Facebook   /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +1.65% for their opinions on getting a COVID-19 vaccine, several responded passionately against the idea. Some said the lightning-fast development process, called Operation Warp Speed, made them afraid they would be “lab rats” for untested products.

“Not a chance I’m putting this poison in my body,” said one. Another griped that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA had “lost all credibility” under President Donald Trump.

Bakke, 53, says he’s relying on medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — not politicians — to offer advice on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. Fauci has said he would get the vaccine once it’s approved and that he trusts the transparent nature of the FDA’s data review process.  

“This whole pandemic and even vaccines have been so totally politicized that it’s really scary to me. The pandemic is real…and folks need to understand that it’s in their best interests to get vaccinated,” says Bakke, a content strategist for National Air Warehouse. Bakke says he’ll request a vaccine as soon as it becomes available to him.

Gee, 70, is certain she’ll be vaccinated eventually, but she will wait until enough older Americans with health conditions such as diabetes have received the shot, so she can be sure they’re not experiencing dangerous side effects.

“I’m African-American, and I need to see how it’s affecting African-American people,” says Gee, a retired administrator at Emory University. Her husband also suffers from congestive heart failure and was recently treated for prostate cancer.

“I have my annual wellness visit next month and will ask my doctor about the vaccines,” Gee says. “I’ll ask my husband’s cardiologist and oncologist, so I can get as much information as possible to make the right decision for both of us.”

Don’t miss: COVID-19 has been ‘devastating’ for college students — and nearly half say the pandemic will impact their degree completion

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