Should elderly people get a vaccine? At least one University of Utah doctor says yes

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The University of Utah Health is discussing traveling during the pandemic, vaccinations, and COVID-19 impacts on elderly individuals.

Peter Galvan is in his sixties and has a heart condition. He and his wife, Lisa will be spending the holiday at home due to the pandemic.

“We have a newborn grand-child that we won’t be seeing this Christmas,” said Galvan.

“The risk to everyone, in particularly to older adults right now, today is as high in Utah as it’s ever been,” said Dr. Mark Supiano, a gerontologist for U of U Health.

Leaders say this is a time to be vigilant and to keep up with mask-wearing and safety precautions, especially with holiday travel right around the corner.

“You really should not be planning to travel over the Christmas holiday,” said Supiano.

Social isolation risk factors and the use of technology also came into discussion.

“I really encourage us to be creative, I encourage us to think that distance is not geography and hugs are not just tactile,” said Dr. Kathie Supiano, the director of caring connections for the college of nursing at U of U Health.

Galvan sats while missing a holiday this year with family is challenging, it’s for the greater good.

“We have a lifetime of enjoyment with our families, our grandchildren, to give up a few months in order for that to happen, I’m all in favor of it,” added Galvan.

Concerns on vaccinations for elderly individuals also were brought up.

“Our most at risk, the 80 and 90-year-old’s and certainly as we’re hearing nursing home residents who are perhaps the most vulnerable, and will be first in line for the vaccine, I would be personally very comfortable with the recommendation that those individuals should be vaccinated,” said Dr. Mark Supiano.

Leaders say when the vaccine will be available to elderly individuals is still unclear, but the projection is Spring of 2021. Each state is responsible for making a plan for the distribution of the vaccine.

There are free virtual grief support groups online for those impacted by COVID-19 through the U of U Health; those interested can register on healthcare.utah.edu/caring-connections.

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