Choosing the Best COVID Vaccine for the Elderly

Posted on 12/02/2021

As we age the risk for severe Covid-19 increases exponentially. Since the more harmful and dominant Delta strain appeared, vaccination has become a more critical part of public health, infectious disease control and prevention, and your own safety. It is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control that people over age 65 years get vaccinated as soon as possible.

But, which COVID vaccine is the best for the elderly? There are some differences between the vaccines available.

The Different Types of COVID-19 Vaccines

Several COVID-19 vaccines have been produced and are under study, but only three of them are available in the United States. These three fall into two types of vaccines: viral vector vaccines or mRNA vaccines.

Viral Vector Vaccines

Viral vector vaccines use a modified virus to carry information and deliver it to your immune system. In the COVID-19 vaccines, the carrier virus is modified with an inactive protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Your body sees this protein as a potential hazard and will develop its own immune proteins to protect you.

That's how it gives you vaccine protection against this infectious disease. The next time you encounter the COVID-19 virus, your body will have a readied response to protect you from getting severely sick.

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

Johnson & Johnson Janssen

On February 2021, The Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine was authorized in for emergency use to prevent the spread of the pandemic. In April 2021, the authorization was changed to include warnings for the risk of blood clots in rare cases. The vaccine is a single dose.

Vaccine Effectiveness

Your body takes about two weeks to develop resistance after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Trials have shown that people who received the single-dose vaccine were 66.9% less likely to have moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization.

Here are some of the most common adverse effects:

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

In rare scenarios, some people might experience blood clots with low platelets.

mRNA Vaccines

The mRNA vaccines are a recent development. Instead of using a weakened or dead virus to trigger an immune response as other vaccines do, these use messenger RNA, called mRNA, from the virus. mRNA is an information package that tells cells how to produce proteins and is destroyed once the cell has finished making them.

The vaccines use mRNA from the virus, which is a protein from its outer layer, and deliver it to your body. Your cells use the mRNA to make a viral protein, which in turn makes your immune system respond by creating antibodies for it. These antibodies are immune proteins that will attack the virus if you become exposed.

Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna are mRNA vaccines.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

In August 2021, the Pfizer-BioTech was approved by the Food and Drug Administration under the brand name Comirnaty for people aged 16 and older.

Vaccine Effectiveness

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Pfizer vaccine reduced the chance of hospitalization by 95% among individuals ages 65 and older during clinical trials. Older people in this category who had only one vaccination were 64% less likely to be hospitalized.

Pfizer-BioNTech has demonstrated high effectiveness in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

Here are some of the most common adverse effects:

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

‌According to studies, the majority of side effects are minor, although stronger symptoms may appear after the second dose. In young Adults, the Pfizer vaccine is accompanied by a warning people for the risk of heart muscle or heart lining inflammation.

Moderna Vaccine

The Moderna vaccine was given the green light by the FDA for emergency usage in 2020. In August 2021, the FDA revised its standards 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 greater than 90 percent chance of preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and mortality from COVID-19. Seniors 65 and older who received two doses of Moderna were 95% less likely to be hospitalized. Those who only received one dose were 64% less likely to be hospitalized or suffer severe symptoms.

Here are some of the most common adverse effects:

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

The most common side effects are fatigue and nausea, with the second dose having a chance for stronger symptoms. Moderna also includes a warning for young adults risking heart inflammation, which is uncommon.

Covid Vaccines

Getting your Vaccine

Seniors in the United States may receive vaccines for free and without limitation, regardless of their health care coverage. It is a personal choice between you and your doctor to choose which vaccine to receive, but keep in mind that the FDA has authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. At the time of writing this article, both the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are still under Emergency Use Authorization with the FDA. The CDC urges everyone over the age of 65 to be vaccinated, however there may be certain exceptions. If you suffer from severe allergies or have doubts regarding the vaccine and your health, talk to your doctor.

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