As early as April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that “older people are facing the most threats and challenges” due to COVID-19. “Older people face significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract the disease due to physiological changes that come with aging and potential underlying health conditions,” they warned. That’s precisely why older people have been prioritized in many places around the world when it comes to the vaccine against COVID-19. And now, there’s finally some good news for those over 65 thanks to a new COVID vaccine study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For more on what to expect if you’re in this age group, read on, and for more on side effects, check out Doctors Are Warning You to “Be Prepared” for This After Your Second Dose.
The CDC reports that 8 out of 10 of the COVID deaths in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older. Due to their evident vulnerability, older citizens featured prominently in the groups that the CDC prioritized to receive the vaccine. Group 1a was healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities, while 1b included frontline essential workers and people aged 75 years and older who aren’t living in care facilities.
Now, a new study from the CDC of COVID vaccines given between Dec. 14 and Jan. 13 showed that seniors are far less likely to experience side effects. According to the report, which was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Feb. 26, less than 3.7 percent of people aged 65-74 years old experienced adverse side effects after receiving the vaccine. (The figures were broadly similar across both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.) The figure dropped even lower to 1.2 percent in the next age bracket up (75-84 year olds). By contrast, 64.9 percent of 18-49 year olds reported an “adverse event” after being vaccinated. And for more on how to prepare for your dose, find out why The CDC Says Don’t Do This Within 2 Weeks of Your COVID Vaccine.
The AARP looked at why the age group they represent seem to be getting off more lightly than younger patients. “The immune response is more robust if you’re young and healthy,” said Wilbur Chen, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “I’ve seen health care workers in their 20s and 30s who think they’re bulletproof be surprised by their response to the vaccine.” And for more COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, added to the AARP that the adverse effects we feel post-vaccine tend to be milder in older people because “their immune systems are not responding as vigorously as a young person’s, but they still get 95 percent protection from the virus.”
That’s great news for the many older people who have had to spend the last year shielding and being extra cautious because of the virus–when it comes to vaccination, you’re going to get all the benefits, and far fewer of the downsides. And for more on the latest in the fight against COVID, check out These Are the Side Effects of the New Johnson & Johnson Vaccine, FDA Says.
Despite the study’s findings, the CDC reports on their website under the guidance “What Older Adults Need to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines” that there are five common side effects to look out for, even for those over 65. According to the agency, “pain where the shot is given, fever, chills, tiredness, or a headache for 1-2 days” are all frequent reactions to the vaccine. And for more vaccine news you need to know, check out The Pfizer CEO Says This Is How Often You’ll Need a COVID Vaccine.