Finding the Right COVID Vaccine for Seniors

Posted on 12/03/2021

The chance of severe COVID-19 disease increases with age. Vaccination is an even more critical part of public health, infectious disease control, and prevention for people over 65 years old because the Delta variant is a highly transmissible and dominant strain. People over 65 should get vaccinated as soon as possible, according to the CDC.

But, which COVID vaccination is the superior choice? There are some important distinctions between the vaccines available.

Vaccine Types for COVID-19

Only three COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved for use in the United States, but several others exist around the world. mRNA vaccines and viral vector vaccines are the two types of vaccines being studied and developed.

mRNA Vaccines

The mRNA vaccines are a cutting-edge technology. Where other vaccines utilize a weakened or dead viral strain to stimulate the immune system, these vaccines use messenger RNA, also known as mRNA, from the virus. Messenger RNA is an information blueprint that shows the cells how to manufacture proteins. When the cell has finished making those proteins it will break down the mRNA

The vaccines contain viral mRNA from the virus's outer layer, which is a completely harmless protein. The mRNA is used by your cells to produce a viral protein, and your immune system responds by generating antibodies against it. If you become exposed, these antibodies will recognize the proteins in the virus and attack it.

Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna are mRNA vaccines.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

The Pfizer-BioTech vaccine, under the brand name Comirnaty, was given FDA approval in August 2021 for individuals 16 and older.

Vaccine Effectiveness

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccinations reduced the risk of hospitalization by 95% less likely among persons 65 years and older. Those aged 65 years or older who received only one dose were 64% less likely to be hospitalized than those who did not get vaccinated.

Pfizer-BioNTech has been demonstrated to be highly effective in preventing the development of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

The most common side effects of the vaccine may include:

  • Headache
  • Sore arm
  • Tiredness
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

According to studies, the side effects are typically minor, but stronger symptoms can occur after the second dose. In young adults, the Pfizer vaccine comes with a warning regarding heart muscle lining inflammation. ‌

Moderna Vaccine

The Modern vaccine was licensed by the FDA for emergency use in 2020. The FDA modified the guidelines in August 2021 to allow it to be given as a booster shot to immunocompromised individuals as well.

Vaccine Effectiveness

All mRNA vaccines, according to the CDC, have a high chance of preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Seniors 65 years and older who received two doses of Moderna were 95% less likely to be hospitalized. Those who got one dose were 64% less likely to be sent to the hospital.

The most common side effects of the vaccine may include:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Sore arm
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Chills

‌The side effects are typically light, however they can be more severe with the second dose. Moderna also contains a caution for young people about the potential risk of heart inflammation, which is quite rare.

Covid Vaccines

 

Viral Vector Vaccines

Viral vector vaccines employ a different modified viral strain to deliver information to your immune system. The carrier or vector virus for COVID-19 vaccinations is modified with an inactivated protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Your body will perceive that protein as an invader and develop immune proteins to target it. This way, the vaccine helps you develop resistance against the disease. The next time you come in contact with the COVID-19 virus your body will be prepared to fight back and reduce the risk of becoming severely sick.

The Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine is a viral vector vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson Janssen

The J&J Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine was given approval for emergency usage in February 2021 to prevent COVID-19. The authorization was modified in April 2021 to include warnings about the potential but very rare occurrence of blood clots after vaccination. Only one dose is required.‌

Vaccine Effectiveness

The vaccine protection against the coronavirus kicks in about two weeks after receiving the dose. According to clinical trials, individuals who received a single dose of this vaccine were 66.9% less likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization.

The most common side effects of the vaccine may include:

  • Pain and swelling in your arm
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills

In some rare scenarios, individuals may experience blood clots with low platelets.

Getting Vaccinated

Vaccines are completely free for all Americans aged 65 years and older, regardless of their health insurance coverage. While it is a personal choice between you and your doctor as to which vaccine you should receive, keep in mind that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA. With Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccine still being on Emergency Use Authorization with the FDA at the time of writing this article. The CDC advises that all older people be vaccinated, but there may be certain cases when you shouldn’t. If you have severe allergies or concerns about your health and vaccines, talk to your doctor.

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