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Younger and healthier adults may have to wait until summer to get a COVID-19 vaccine, so they’re being urged to continue to follow safety precautions. People Images/Getty Images
  • It appears many younger people and healthy adults may have to wait until summer to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • Experts hope the approval of additional vaccines and quicker distribution can move up that timetable.
  • Experts are urging these groups to continue to follow safety protocols, as they can still contract the disease and transmit it.

Being young and healthy in the United States is usually considered a good thing.

That is, unless you’re living in a pandemic.

Schools are closed. Any normal place to be together is also shut down. Graduation ceremonies are reduced to drive-by photo opportunities.

COVID-19 has largely spared young people from serious illness.

For that reason, young people have been designated as the last in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Now, new research suggests that people under age 24 are the most likely to contract COVID-19. Public health officials are thus pleading with young healthy adults to continue doing their part in protecting people more vulnerable to the virus by giving COVID-19 fewer chances to spread.

“We all want to get back to living our lives, but we have to be smart about it,” Dr. Nancy Gin, medical director of quality and clinical analysis for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, told Healthline.

As of Friday, Jan. 29, more than 435,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the United States.

At the same time, the United States has delivered more than 27 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine — a far cry away from the needed 60 to 70 percent immunization levels to reach herd immunity.

Right now, under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, only frontline healthcare workers and people over age 65 should be considered for vaccinations, although some exemptions have been made.

While more than 25 million people diagnosed with COVID-19 have survived, the long-term effects of the disease are still largely unknown, and mass vaccinations are seen as the golden ticket to ending the worst parts of the pandemic.

A hopeful sign is that more people of all ages are prepared to roll up their sleeves when the time is right.

According to a Pew Research survey from December 2020, 60 percent of people in the United States say they plan to get vaccinated. That’s up from 50 percent in September.

“I’m encouraged that people want to be vaccinated,” Bridget Calhoun, Dr.PH, an associate dean for academic affairs and research, chair and associate professor in the Rangos School of Health Sciences at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, told Healthline.

“Young, healthy people should not be in line for the coveted COVID vaccine [at this time],” she added.

So, young adults will have to wait. But for how long?

Young people not working in healthcare or other frontline jobs could have to wait until this summer or longer to receive a vaccine.

But, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looks at three more potential vaccines in addition to the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, that schedule could be shortened.

And getting everyone vaccinated within 2 years of the novel coronavirus being detected is going to be a Herculean effort not seen before in modern medicine.

“We’re talking about a mass vaccination effort in an already stressed workforce,” Calhoun said.

People want to get their shots and get back to traditional milestones in their formative years, such as attending school in person and being able to get together with friends.

“We’re all tired of socially distancing,” Calhoun added.

She likens messaging in this pandemic to the HIV epidemic 30 years ago when public health officials discovered that telling people not to have sex wasn’t effective.

Instead, it boiled down to “risk reduction programming.” In the case of COVID-19, that includes keeping social interactions in your pod, wearing masks, and washing your hands.

“I think some behaviors will be forever changed,” Calhoun said. “We’re going to be a lot more attentive to surfaces we touch.”

Experts are still cautioning everyone — young, old, vaccinated or not — to remain vigilant and steadfast in protecting themselves and others, especially as variants of the virus circulate.

Gin said there are plenty of stories of people in intensive care units at hospitals having to FaceTime with their families, as younger family members apologize for transmitting the disease to their older loved ones.

“I would not want anyone living with that guilt,” she said.