America's untapped COVID-19 strategy

The U.S. could reduce COVID-19 deaths by focusing on one public health strategy that's been largely untapped: encouraging boosters among older adults, The Atlantic reported Feb. 14.

Vaccination and booster rates among older adults in the U.S. are higher than those for younger adults but still not high enough to make progress on the nation's death rate. As of December 2021, vaccinated but unboosted older adults were dying from COVID-19 at four times the rate of unvaccinated adults under 49, CDC data shows. This year, three-fourths of U.S. COVID-19 deaths have involved people 65 and older. 

"Our vaccination rates, as well as booster use, in people aged 60- or 65-plus are woefully low and expose a tremendous amount of vulnerability to severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths," Eric Topol, MD, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif., told The Atlantic. "This has been one of the most serious disappointments in our performance."

Encouraging boosters among those already vaccinated would likely be easier and have a bigger payoff than persuading vaccine holdouts to get inoculated, according to the publication. 

To encourage these efforts, CMS could make vaccination and booster rates a quality measure that would affect reimbursement for providers, nursing homes and Medicare Advantage plans, health policy experts told The Atlantic. States could also offer nursing homes direct financial incentives to vaccinate residents, whether it's a payment per booster or a bonus for hitting a certain threshold.

View the full article here.


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