Older Americans are critical to the success of the US vaccination campaign. They are most likely to be hospitalized and die of Covid-19 and least likely to develop a strong immune response to the coronavirus.
In some states, nearly 40 percent of deaths from Covid-19 have occurred among nursing home residents. For this reason, an advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine be given to the nearly three million nursing home residents first.
However, a committee member voted against the recommendation, saying that the vaccines had not been adequately tested in frail populations and that poor medical results coinciding with vaccination common in that age group could undermine public confidence in the new vaccine.
Other experts on the committee said all available evidence indicated that the vaccine was safe and effective for nursing home residents and older Americans in general.
There was a reason for scientists to wonder if a vaccine might not work as well in older adults. With increasing age, the physical defense against pathogens weakens, and the response to vaccines also falter.
Drug makers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said Friday that their vaccine doesn't seem to work well in the elderly because the dosage was too low to produce an adequate immune response in this population.
Pfizer and Moderna did not provide statistics on the effectiveness of their vaccines in people over the age of 80, but the data shows that the vaccines performed well in all volunteers over the age of 65.