"we Should Be at the Back of the Line": A Frame Analysis of Old Age within the Distribution Order of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Laura D. Allen, Idalina Z. Odziemczyk, Jolanta Perek-Białas, Liat Ayalon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations
18 Downloads (Pure)


Background and Objectives: In the fall of 2020, it became clear that the initial doses of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine would be limited, and a priority order would be necessary. This article examines the perceptions of old age in the context of establishing a priority order for the COVID-19 vaccine from the perspective of online newspaper commenters. Two research questions are investigated: (a) How do commenters place older people in line for the COVID-19 vaccine? and (b) What frames and factors do commenters use as reasoning for their proposed position of older adults? Research Design and Methods: This study involves a frame analysis of 440 online comments on an article published by The New York Times on December 1, 2020 about the U.S. recommendations for distributing the coronavirus vaccine. Results: Older adults were referenced as belonging to one of the 3 groups: older long-term care residents, older workers, and older adults retired and/or isolating at home. Two frames emerged from the data as criteria for prioritization: social contribution and vulnerability. Older commenters themselves frequently stated that they should be deprioritized so that others can be inoculated earlier. Discussion and Implications: The findings may be interpreted as demonstrative of pervasive ageism throughout the pandemic; older commenters' sacrificial remarks may reflect generativity, internalized ageism, social pressure from online forums, or some combination thereof.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1325
Number of pages9
JournalThe Gerontologist
Issue number8
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America.


FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme764632


    • Ageism
    • Frame analysis
    • Internet-based data
    • Social contribution
    • Vulnerability


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