Older adults are among those most at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. That is why, now that vaccines against the virus are being distributed, seniors will be some of the first to receive them.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that people living in long-term care facilities, as well as those 65 and older, be included in Phase 1 of the COVID-19 vaccination program.
While distribution will vary from state to state, here in New Jersey, all residents aged 65+ are eligible for vaccination beginning January 14.
As you get ready to receive the vaccine, you may have some questions. That’s understandable.
In this blog, we address some of the most common queries older adults have about the COVID-19 vaccine so you can feel more comfortable as you move forward with the process.
Keep reading to learn more:
Older Adults and COVID-19
According to the CDC, “risk of severe illness increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.” In the U.S., 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have been in adults aged 65 and higher, and those aged 85 and higher have a 630x greater chance of death.
One of the reasons older adults are so likely to become gravely ill is underlying medical conditions, such as COPD or diabetes. To mitigate risks, experts recommend that older adults continue with their regular treatment plan and have at a least a 30-day supply of any medications. Most importantly, they say that you SHOULD NOT avoid going to the hospital or doctor office out of fear of contracting COVID-19.
The CDC has recommended that states give vaccine priority to health care workers, long-term care residents, essential workers, adults with high-risk conditions, and those aged 65 and older (in that order).
Already, more than 9.3 million doses of vaccine have been administered across the U.S. – mostly to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Soon, the process will be opened to those aged 65 and older (some states, such as Florida, have already begun inoculating older adults).
It is estimated that about 50 million doses of vaccine should be available this month, followed by another 60 million doses in February and March. That’s enough vaccine for roughly 85 million people, and should be enough to immunize medical personnel, front line workers, and older adults.
Getting the Vaccine
There are two authorized vaccines in the United States (Pfizer and Moderna), and both require two shots to be effective. Vaccine doses are purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars and will be given to the American people at no cost, however vaccination providers may charge an “administration fee” for giving the shot. The fee may be covered by your insurance company or, if you are uninsured, by the Health Resources and Services Administration Provider Relief Fund.
Each state has its own plan for who will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine first. For more information on when you may be eligible, contact your state health department.
Is the Vaccine Safe For Older Adults?
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been tested in adults aged 65 and older. Research shows that they are safe and effective at preventing illness due to COVID-19. Since it is known that older adults can become gravely ill from COVID-19 and are more likely to die from the infection, it is highly recommended that they receive the vaccine.
What are the Side Effects?
Based on what scientists have seen so far, there seem to be few side effects. Most often, recipients have noted symptoms such as:
- Soreness at the site of injection
- Low-grade fever
Please note that if you are on chemotherapy to treat cancer or immunosuppressants (such as post-transplant), you may experience additional side effects and you should speak to your doctor before receiving your first dose.
Do I Still Need to Wear a Mask Post-Vaccine?
Yes. The CDC recommends that during the pandemic, people continue to wear a mask that covers their face and nose, even after receiving the vaccine. It is unknown whether vaccinated people can become carriers of the disease and spread it to other people, leaving the possibility that they could become silent spreaders of COVID-19.