What seniors need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines

With information regarding vaccine eligibility, access, and health information remaining spotty and highly specific from state to state, we want to offer our members and readers a general rundown of everything we know about the COVID-19 (and everything seniors SHOULD know).

Though the Centers for Disease Control have long released their own guidance as to how vaccinations should be rolled out, states are the ultimate authority in making those determinations.  Unfortunately, this means no two states are handling priority groups and appointment procedures the same. 

But in MOST states at this time, seniors ARE among the highest priority vaccination groups.  If you are not already eligible to make an appointment, you will be very soon.

Where can I find information about my state’s COVID-19 vaccination procedure and eligibility?

As we mentioned, no two states are rolling out vaccines the same way, so it’s important you take a look at your state’s health department website to see if you are eligible and what you need to do to get on the list.  Vaccines are being administered to select demographic groups by appointment ONLY. 

Check out the site above for a list of links to every state’s official immunization website.

Who is administering the vaccine?

You may think the COVID-19 vaccine is only being administered by doctors and hospitals, but that’s not the case.  In a partnership between the federal government and several retailers, called the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, your local grocery stores and pharmacies may be accepting direct applications to receive the vaccine.

For a full list of retailers participating in the program, visit the link above.  You can call those retailers to inquire about vaccine availability or even sign up to receive yours on their websites.

If you are not yet eligible, please keep this list of retailers in mind for when you are.  Primary care practices and healthcare offices nationwide are receiving constant calls about this vaccine and their staff is likely overwhelmed by those who don’t realize they can sign up for the vaccine at their local grocery store.  It’s also likely your primary care practice doesn’t even have access to the vaccine yet.

What are the ACTUAL side effects of receiving the vaccine?

This section is extremely important.  There is a ridiculous amount of misinformation floating around on social media to scare people, particularly seniors, into avoiding the vaccine.  And to make sure those who are unable to receive it due to certain health conditions are truly safe, everyone who CAN get it NEEDS to. 

Refusal to get this vaccine if you are physically able is a threat to the lives of those who can’t.  The vaccine is safe.  The vaccine has been more than adequately tested.  All claims that it has not are unequivocally false.

This is not to say the vaccine doesn’t have side effects.  All vaccines have the potential to cause side effects.  This DOES NOT make the COVID-19 vaccine unsafe or unusual among other vaccines.

The most common side effects associated with the COVID-19 vaccine are:

Mild pain or swelling at the injection site

Mild pain or swelling in the lymph nodes in the arm where the injection was given

Flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, fever, chills, and body aches

Flu-like symptoms tend to occur after the second dose is administered, with as many as 40-50% of those receiving the second shot reporting symptoms.  This is NOT unusual or unexpected.  The most common vaccines being administered in this country are reactogenic.  The first dose introduces your body to the novel virus and the second dose is meant to trigger your immune system into reacting to a known viral threat.  The flu-like symptoms will only be mild to moderate in most people and very temporary. 

Though certainly uncomfortable, these symptoms are strictly evidence of your body working to eliminate the threat—they are NOT symptoms that you have COVID-19.

Seniors with less reactive immune systems are likely to experience very mild flu-like symptoms (if they experience them at all) since their immune systems won’t react as aggressively to threats.  But this does not affect the efficacy of the vaccine.

Rare and extreme reactions to the vaccine include anaphylaxis (an severe allergic reaction) in those who may be allergic to vaccine ingredients and fatality.  Health officials in Norway have documented 23 deaths after administration of the vaccine to elderly patients, though it is unclear what caused them or how they were caused.

What are the false claims being made about the vaccine?

The vaccine has NOT been documented or proven to cause:

COVID-19

Mercury toxicity from vaccine additives, like thimerosal (none of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in use contain thimerosal, nor does thimerosal cause mercury poisoning)

Neurologic conditions, including screaming, crying, paralysis, loss of eye control, loss of mobility, involuntary movements, memory loss, vision loss, insomnia, or hyperactivity (these are all claims being made on a viral social media post—they are lies)

Bleeding or anemia

Extreme or disabling fatigue and weakness

Ear infections

Respiratory infections

Asthma

Autism (NO VACCINE EVER MADE has been PROVEN to cause autism—this is a HORRIBLE myth)

Microchipping (…the government is not using the vaccine to inject a tracking chip into your bloodstream, it is not being used to link you with 5G towers somehow, and it is almost unbelievable this needs to be added to the list)

There is NO scientific data to prove these claims.  None.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  These claims are 100% false.  Beware of any social media posts making them, and do NOT take any medical claims made on social media seriously.  If you have concerns about your reaction to the vaccines, call your primary care physician. 

Also bear in mind receiving the COVID-19 shot does not hit “pause” on your body’s everyday functions.  While there is no harm at all in contacting your doctor should you develop any concerning physical discomfort or illness after receiving the vaccine, not everything you experience after the shot is necessarily related to the shot.  Resist the urge to panic over minor daily discomforts after receiving your vaccine.  Beyond the known common reactions, your symptoms are likely unrelated.

When will I be fully protected after receiving the vaccine?

The vaccine is administered via TWO injections—meaning you will not be protected until you’ve received both doses. 

Additionally, you should allow at least TWO FULL WEEKS after the second dose to reach “protected” status.  It will take your body at least two weeks to detect and mount a full immune response to the second dose.  This is required for your body to create the COVID-19 antibodies that will protect you from the virus in the long term.

Please continue isolating and closely observing CDC health safety recommendations to the fullest extent for two weeks after receiving the second dose.

What am I able to do after I’m fully protected via the vaccine?

This is critical.

Receiving the COVID-19 vaccination is NOT a license to resume life as normal.  It is strictly a vaccine that will protect you from life-threatening reactions to contracting COVID-19.

What the vaccine DOESN’T do is prevent you from CONTRACTING COVID-19.  You can STILL GET COVID-19 after having the vaccine.

While there are hypotheses right now that those who have contracted the virus after getting the vaccine may carry and shed less of the virus—something that could result in a weaker form of the virus in those who catch it from a vaccinated person—this is not yet known to be a fact.    At this time all we know is those who have been vaccinated can spread the virus to those who aren’t vaccinated.

Remember: your vaccine only protects YOU.  And if your vaccinated status causes you to take exposure risks, you are incredibly dangerous to your friends, family, and loved ones who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

You need to continue sterilizing, hand-washing, avoiding groups of people, maintaining social distance, wearing masks, and using distance means to communicate.  And you need to discourage your unvaccinated loved ones from taking risks around you because you are vaccinated.

Can I interact with my grandchildren yet?

Unfortunately, the vaccines we are using in this county are not approved for individuals under the age of 16.  Currently, health officials and vaccine developers are still in trials to create a vaccine suitable for young children.  Children under 16 can’t be vaccinated right now.

Knowing this, it is unwise to break social distancing protocol with those under 16.  Although young children are known to have far less severe reactions to COVID-19, they are highly likely to spread the virus to others (young children are not exactly famous for their adherence to hygiene and safety rules).  Keeping vulnerable adults safe will mean avoiding unvaccinated children for the time being.

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