Concern is increasing among researchers because seniors are being from clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments. The elderly are by far the most at risk of being infected by or dying from the coronavirus.

A Massachusetts investigative team found that seniors are likely being excluded from more than half of COVID-19 clinical trials and 100% of vaccine trials, according to findings published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. 

The findings raise doubt on how effective treatments will be for seniors, who account for a majority of coronavirus-related deaths globally, according to the report.  

“If the older age group is excluded from vaccine trials, efforts to ensure effectiveness, titrate dosage or frequency, and assess adverse effects in the group most vulnerable to COVID-19 will not be possible,” wrote co-authors Benjamin K.I. Helfand, Margaret Webb, Sarah L. Gartaganis, et. al. Helfand serves at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, while both Webb and Gartaganis are with Hebrew SeniorLife at the Harvard Medical School. 

“Antibody responses to vaccines may decrease with age, and can improve with increasing antigen levels, adjuvants, or repeated dosing,” the researchers added. 

The investigators noted that some researchers have argued that vaccination of the younger population is needed to achieve herd immunity, which is a 67% level of immunity. They explained that the “high level of immunity required, coupled with the fact that many settings (eg, nursing homes) are composed nearly exclusively of older adults, highlights the imperative for their inclusion in COVID-19 vaccine trials.”

“With advanced preparation, staff training, and aging expertise, enrollment of older adults is feasible, allowing COVID-19 clinical trials to be as relevant and inclusive as possible,” Helfand, Webb, Gartaganis, et al. concluded. 

President Trump and officials across the country have pledged to prioritize nursing home residents and other seniors very high for a vaccine once it’s available.