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67% of seniors have received at least one vaccine shot: RPT

In this article:
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Richard Ashworth, CEO of Tivity Health, joins Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous to discuss the latest on the coronavirus vaccine.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. We just learned a short time ago that the governors of Florida and New York have given the all clear for people aged 60 and over to start getting the COVID-19 vaccine. So this increases eligibility here. This is going to start happening in New York tomorrow and in Florida on March 15th.

Meantime, seniors are getting more comfortable with the idea of taking the COVID-19 vaccine. There is a new national survey out by Tivity Health and Silver Sneakers which finds more than 75% of seniors are willing to take the vaccine immediately. That's really good news because it's up from 47% in November. Of course, the big challenge now is getting them access to those vaccines.

Here to break it down for us is Tivity Health's CEO, Richard Ashworth. Richard, good to see you. And I think that that headline number is very encouraging for seniors-- 75% wanting to take it immediately. But if we dig into the numbers, just 22% believe they'll have quick and easy access to a vaccine. So, what can we do to sort of remove those barriers for that population?

RICHARD ASHWORTH: Yeah, to start, I agree with you. I think it's good news because, you know, it's up from 46% to 75% of seniors who say they're willing to take the vaccine right now. And we were really clear about how we asked the questions so that we could understand their motivations.

The however is that 26% do believe that it might be tough to get access to the vaccine. So everything we're seeing around logistics and going on to a website and where can I go are still causing some hesitancy. Not so much in their belief to want to get it, but in their ability to actually go and get it.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And what about who seniors are listening to most? Because that's quite a turnaround from having 47% just a few months ago saying they would take the vaccine to 75% wanting to take it immediately now. Who are they listening to? Who are they trusting?

RICHARD ASHWORTH: Yeah, well, good news there. So, back in the fall whenever we asked this question, they were still going to the FDA, the CDC, the NIH. And that still continues to be true now. Actually, 61% of the respondents cited the CDC as the government authority that they go to.

Among non-government influencers, back in the fall, it was your pharmacist, it was your physician. Now, it's your friends and family, which is a little bit more traditional, as everyone's gotten more comfortable and understanding what COVID-19 is, what the minimal side effects are of the vaccine, and their efficacy.

But I will say that the potential side effects continue to be the number one reason why people are a little bit more hesitant for a vaccine adoption. They're still worried about some of the side effects. So the more communication and transparency we can have about that, the better.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And certainly with each passing day, we're getting more data, right, on how the vaccines are affecting people of all different age groups. I want to talk about another data point here coming out of the survey. It says nearly half of the seniors continue to avoid or delay routine medical checkups and dental checkups. And I have to think that's a big no-no, regardless of your age.

RICHARD ASHWORTH: Yeah, this was actually a little bit of a problem pre-pandemic, too, you know, seniors getting access to spend time socially connecting with friends and family, physically getting active. You know, at Silver Sneakers, we have over 18 million eligible lives that we help people on their path to better health-- nonclinical health. So, helping them stay physically fit, socially connected, mentally enriched.

And part of your daily routines or even your health routines of going to see your dentist or your physician are really important. We know that 90% of our seniors have changed their daily lifestyle. So that is a significant impact on them. 90% of them are avoiding public spaces. That's up from 79% in November, and 81% of them said they're really worried about their friend, their family, et cetera. And actually, 72% have even changed their spending habits.

And all of that is really impacting their overall health. Only 26% of them, again, believe that the vaccine's going to be available within one month of them. So, going to their pharmacy, going to their physician, the place that they trust, if the vaccine is available there, I think we can start to unlock their normal health behavior.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Richard, I know in your previous life, you were president at Walgreens. And we're seeing how those large drugstore chains are playing a vital role in getting the vaccination to different communities. What are some of the things you think companies like Walgreens can glean from this survey that you had done with Silver Sneakers?

RICHARD ASHWORTH: Well, one is just to make sure the information is broadly available and consistent. I'll give you an example. You know, back in fall, 62% of our respondents thought they were going have to pay for the vaccine. Now the good news is, we're down to 31% now, but that still means 3 out of 10 believe they're going to have to pay when, specifically, it's going to be free for them. And so the pharmacy chains, the physician offices, the hospital systems, the health systems really need to give that kind of information.

Also, side effects-- you know, really being honest about the side effects. Even though they are minimal, very similar to the flu, which the majority of our respondents, over 85% of them get the flu vaccine every year. So, correlating it to things they're comfortable with and they know.

I will tell you the same thing from the survey is, is that our members want to go to places that they know and trust. Your pharmacy and your physician-- can't think of two better places for you to go. So I encourage the national chains and the regional chains and also the independent pharmacies to do those two things-- communicate clearly about, you know, the price and also about the side effects.

One big call-out, though, is that it's been a real challenge for our members to be able to get online and get an appointment made. And so the more that they can do over the phone, the more that they can do live when they are out getting their prescriptions filled or seeing their physician for other matters, helping them to get signed up for the vaccine that way versus just digital only or online only, I think could also be helpful.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: That is a huge point, because technology is tough for a lot of people, especially our seniors, and they need those advocates. Richard Ashworth, CEO of Tivity Health, thanks so much.