It’s not just church that young adults in America are staying away from. New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicate adults ages 18 to 29 are the least likely to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
On a national level, Americans ages 65 and older are twice as likely as 18-to-29-year-olds to have been vaccinated. And the rate of current vaccinations for young adults is dropping, leading the CDC to worry that young adults will not catch up with older adults on vaccinations.
Americans ages 65 and older are twice as likely as 18-to-29-year-olds to have been vaccinated.
That’s likely a familiar refrain to pastors and church leaders who typically see their pews filled with far more older adults than younger adults.
It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that a separate CDC study found that among 18- to 39-year-olds, religious organizations are the least-trusted source of information about vaccination. The CDC and health care providers top the list of trusted sources, followed by family and friends and even social media. Adults in this age group are four times more likely to trust family and friends for information than religious organizations.
There are other parallels between young adults leaving church and declining to be vaccinated — findings that defy the common stereotype of the religious “nones” in America today.
Ryan Burge, one of the foremost researchers on the “nones,” wrote in April 2021 on the FiveThirtyEight website: “Compared to the U.S. population overall, nonreligious Americans are younger and more Democratic-leaning. But the number of Americans who aren’t religious has surged in part because people in lots of demographic groups are disengaging from religion — many nones don’t fit that young, liberal stereotype. The average age of a none is 43 (so plenty are older than that). About one-third of nones (32%) are people of color. More than a quarter of nones voted for Trump in 2020. And about 70% don’t have a four-year college degree.”
Some of the same factors show up as predictors of whether young adults have been vaccinated or intend to be vaccinated.
Some of the same factors show up as predictors of whether young adults have been vaccinated or intend to be vaccinated. Young adults who live in metro areas are nearly twice as likely as those living in non-metro areas to be vaccinated or say they will be. Those young adults with a high school diploma or less are twice as likely as the college educated to embrace vaccination. Black young adults are the most likely to say they have not and will not be vaccinated. And there is a direct correlation between income level and willingness to be vaccinated.
Among young adults who are not vaccinated and say they are not likely to do so, the most common reason for vaccine rejection is a fear of possible side effects or generalized doubts about the safety of the vaccines.
The CDC concludes in its study: “Achieving high vaccination coverage among adults aged 18–39 years is critical to protect this population from COVID-19 and to reduce community incidence. Increasing confidence in vaccine safety and effectiveness and emphasizing that vaccines are important for preventing the spread of COVID-19 to family and friends and resuming social activities might help increase coverage in this younger adult population, particularly among those who are unsure about whether to get vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, for pastors and church leaders planning a return to in-person worship and other church events, the CDC data show senior adults might be the safest demographic to bring back together. Nearly 80% of American adults ages 65 and older report they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, making them the least likely of all age groups to spread the virus.
These statistics vary from region to region and city to city, and the CDC also points out that the data are constantly evolving as more people get vaccinated in an attempt to return to their previous activities.
But nationwide, weekly vaccination rates for young adults are declining, which worries health officials.
“If the current rate of vaccination continues through August, coverage among young adults will remain substantially lower than among older adults,” the CDC said in its report.
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