Virus fears linger for vaccinated older adults

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The findings of a survey of older adults found that 36% are very or extremely worried that they or a family member will become infected.

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Bronwyn Russell wears a mask whenever she leaves her Illinois home, although she doesn’t dream of going out to eat or listening to a band play, much less setting foot on a plane. In Virginia, Oliver Midgett rarely wears a mask, never lets COVID-19 be a concern and happily finds himself in the midst of restaurants and crowds.

He is vaccinated. He is not.

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In a sign of a completely different way of looking at Americans coronavirus pandemicVaccinated older adults are more concerned about the virus than taking precautions, despite the protection afforded by their shots, according to a new survey Wednesday. Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

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While a growing number of older people are planning travel, embracing group gatherings and returning to gyms and houses of worship, vaccinations are declining.

“I’m worried. I don’t want to get sick,” says Russell, 58, of Des Plaines, Illinois, who is looking for part-time work while collecting disability benefits. “People who are going about their lives are in their own little bubble of selfishness and don’t believe the facts.”

As delta version of virus The U.S. has fueled new waves of infections, with a survey of people 50 or older finding that 36% are very or extremely worried that they or a family member will be infected, nearly doubling since June . The increase has been driven by vaccinations, which are particularly likely to be highly concerned. Only 25% of vaccinated Americans, but 61% of unvaccinated Americans, say they are not worried.

This concern is taking a toll: People who are concerned about COVID-19 are less likely to rate their quality of life, mental and emotional health, and social activities and relationships as excellent or very good.

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The dichotomy is at once peculiar and pedestrian: although the uninfected stand the highest risk of infection, the refusal of shots suggests that many are convinced the danger is greater.

Midget, a 73-year-old retired electronics salesman in Norfolk, Virginia, sees the government as the culprit in fostering fear, but he isn’t buying into it. He says that “life is normal” and the only thing he is missing is going on a cruise with his wife because of vaccination requirements. It won’t reassure him.

“I grew up in the old days. I ate dirt. I drank water from a hose. I used to play outside. I don’t live in a cage anymore,” he says.

Nearly two-thirds of people age 50 or older say they rarely or never feel isolated, but nearly half of those most worried about COVID-19 say they have The past month has felt that way at least sometimes.

Cathy Paiva, 70, a retired bartender from Palm Coast, Florida, says she feels the burden of being at home.

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“My life is more limited than ever,” Paiva says. “I’m afraid to go anywhere at the moment. I’d like to go out to eat, but I’m not going to put anyone’s life in danger, especially my own.”

His son died of a heart attack in January. In July, she and her closest confidant, her 67-year-old sister, both fell ill with COVID-19. Paiva, who has been vaccinated, survived. His sister, who was not, was not.

About 1 in 4 older adults, including about a third of those most concerned about COVID-19, say their social life and relationships have deteriorated over the past year.

The survey found that vaccinated older adults were more likely to say they often avoided large groups, wore masks outside their homes and avoided non-essential travel. Compared to June, vaccinated people were less likely to say they would travel or visit bars and restaurants in the next few weeks.

Dr. Irwin Radlenner, a public health expert and founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, said people are less afraid of the virus because of their “disregard for science.”

“Vaccinated people have generally bought into the scientific realities of risk. They’re reading reports of new variants or mutations, they’re reading stories about successes,” he said.

All this is fueling concern for vaccination, Radlenner said, due to a lack of confidence in experts and officials and their shifting guidance, on a recent issue of booster shots.


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