What is the COVID-19 booster shot?
Although COVID-19 vaccination remains effective in preventing severe symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, new data suggests that the original vaccination may become less effective over time.
Unfortunately, this is something that is all too common when it comes to infectious diseases that have the ability to mutate as time goes on (seasonal influenza is another such example). This is especially true in populations who are 65 or older, since the strength of our natural immune system already begins to wane as we enter our golden years.
The recent emergence of new COVID-19 variants, such as Delta and Omicron, further emphasizes the need for COVID boosters for seniors. Early data from each of these variants suggests a higher transmissibility factor in addition to increased potential immune system evasion.
Due to a combination of these new, more dangerous variants as well as the decreased effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine over time, the CDC and the world’s leading healthcare professionals stress that those aged 65 or older and residents who live in long-term care facilities should receive a COVID booster shot at least 6 months following their original vaccine series.
The Importance of the COVID Vaccine for Seniors: Why should I get the COVID booster?
Data from the world’s leading clinical trials recently showed that a booster shot increased immune response in trial participants who finished a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna primary series 6 months earlier or who received a J&J/Janssen single-dose vaccine 2 months earlier.
This increased immune response indicates that those who receive the COVID booster should have improved protection against getting infected with COVID-19, including enhanced protection against the newer variants of the virus. Additionally, clinical trials showed that a COVID booster for seniors even helped to decrease the severity of symptoms for those who contracted breakthrough cases of the disease.
While you may experience side effects of the COVID vaccine, including arm soreness and swelling at the injection site, mild fatigue, and mild aches and pains, this is simply a sign that your body’s immune system is effectively building protection against COVID-19.
Please note that not everyone who receives the COVID vaccine or the COVID booster will be affected by these side effects, and that any side effects you may experience will pale in comparison to the discomfort, pain, and dangerous illness symptoms you are likely to encounter if you become infected with COVID-19 as result of not being fully vaccinated.
What else can I do to protect myself from COVID and other diseases?
Unfortunately, seniors are often adversely affected by infectious diseases, especially respiratory illnesses like influenza, pneumococcal disease, and of course, COVID-19. The good news is, severe symptoms and usually initial onset of the disease is preventable.
In addition to getting vaccinated for all preventable diseases that currently have an FDA-approved shot, some scientifically-proven ways to reduce your risk of infection include:
- Washing your hands regularly
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that are touched by others frequently
- Promptly disposing of medical waste in an approved wastebasket or trash can
- Covering your mouth and nose in the crook of your arm when sneezing or coughing
- Staying indoors and avoiding close contact with others who are feeling ill
- Properly wearing a face mask over both your mouth and nose
- Avoiding touching your face, nose, eyes, or mouth, as much as possible
- Practicing proper self-care, including maintaining a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep and exercise, and properly taking any recommended vitamins or medications
When it comes to staving off potential infection for yourself and those you care about, everyone carries some degree of responsibility. By taking care of yourself and following recommended guidelines this holiday season, including receiving the COVID booster shot, you can feel much more at ease.
For additional information about preventing the spread of disease or the vaccinations that are currently available to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to your reliable health care provider or professionally trained doctor as soon as possible.