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Thursday, September 12, 2024

What Older Adults Should Know About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Chicago Methodist Senior services is incredibly fortunate to have received our first round of COVID-19 vaccinations. A significant portion of CMSS residents and staff members received the Moderna vaccine in early January and will be getting the second round of vaccines by late January or early February. 

The process was smooth, and we’re not aware of any resident or staff member who experienced any adverse reaction to the vaccine. Our communities have looked different these past nine months, but we’re excited to begin returning to normalcy in 2021.

As the vaccine is distributed to more communities throughout the country, older adults are being prioritized. This is a great opportunity to protect yourself from COVID-19. You might still be on the fence about receiving the vaccine. With lots of information being shared, it’s hard to know where to focus your attention and what to believe. In order to help you make a more educated decision, here’s what you should know about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The two vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and are being distributed were developed by pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer and their partner BioNTech. Both spent 2020 testing their vaccines to prove safety and effectiveness. Here’s how they differ and relate:

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine

Pfizer and BioNTech’s trial included 43,000 study participants, with half receiving the vaccine and half receiving a placebo. These participants ranged across genders, racial and ethnic groups and included a portion of individuals who were at a higher risk of severe COVID-19. They found that partial protection from coronavirus comes as early as 12 days after the first vaccination, with 95% efficacy seven days after the second dose. 

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine needs to be stored at minus-75 degrees Celsius and can be put in a conventional refrigerator for only up to five days before it expires. It is administered as two 100-microgram doses given 28 days apart.

Moderna’s vaccine

Moderna’s trial included 15,000 study participants who were given a placebo and another 15,000 participants who were given the vaccine. This study also included a wide range of  participants. Out of those that were given the vaccine, only 11 developed Covid-19 and none became severely ill. The vaccine showed efficacy levels of 95%.

Unlike Pfizer, Moderna’s vaccine does not need to be kept at an incredibly low temperature. It can stay effective in an environment that’s about as cold as a normal freezer. Moderna’s vaccine is administered in two-30 microgram doses and distributed 28 days apart. 

How the COVID-19 vaccines are similar

Both vaccines deliver messenger RNA, or mRNA, although with slightly different structures and make up. Scientists used a piece of genetic material coding for a piece of the spike protein. The mRNA instructs cells in the body to make a piece of the virus’s spike protein. Then, the body’s immune system identifies the spike and makes antibodies that should stand ready to attack the virus if the vaccinated individual is exposed to coronavirus. 

Neither vaccine showed severe side effects, but some recipients did experience reactions at the point of injection of the body, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills and fever.

Should you get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Now that you’ve learned more about the two vaccines available in the states, hopefully you feel more informed when making a decision. With the efficacy levels at 95%, strong evidence supports the idea that a vaccination improves your chances of not getting COVID-19, and, even if in the rare case that you do, it would keep you from getting seriously ill. It may also help protect people around you, particularly those at high-risk for severe illness.

At CMSS and across the world, we’ve spent the last year wearing masks, social distancing and taking extra precautions to avoid spreading the virus. Receiving the vaccine appears to be the strongest tool yet to successfully turn this pandemic around and return to normalcy. 

If you have additional questions about the vaccine, you can learn more here.

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