Frequently Asked Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine
Thank goodness, vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus are making their way to our older loved ones. People who live in long-term care settings may already have received their first vaccination shot or been given a date when they’ll get it. Their facility will keep them informed, explain the risks and benefits of the vaccination, and ask them to sign a consent form to receive it. For all other people age 65 or older, access to vaccines varies by state. In Massachusetts, people aged 65 and older are in phase 2, currently targeted for February through April.
To answer some of the questions you or your older loved one may have about the vaccine, we’re sharing information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You’ll find a wealth of COVID-related information on the CDC’s website.
Why is it important to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is an important step to reduce a person’s chance of becoming sick with COVID-19 disease. The risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age. Older adults and people with underlying chronic medical conditions are most at risk.
Is the vaccine safe, even though it’s new?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are being held to the same safety standards as all other vaccines. The vaccines were tested in large studies that included thousands of adults age 65 and older. The study results showed that the vaccines were safe and provided protection from COVID-19 in these older adults.
Are there side effects after receiving the vaccine?
Most people do not have serious problems after being vaccinated. The injection site may become sore, red, or warm to the touch. Some people report getting a headache or fever when getting a vaccine. These side effects, which usually go away on their own within a week, are a sign that the immune system is doing exactly what it is supposed to do.
Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying health problems like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and obesity. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 disease itself and need protection provided by the vaccine.
Can I refuse the COVID-19 vaccination?
Individuals can refuse the vaccine for any reason. Some may decline vaccination due to a medical condition or because they have an allergy to one of the components of the vaccine. Others may decline vaccination due to a religious belief.
Will I still need to wear a mask after I get vaccinated?
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool to help stop the pandemic. However, even after vaccination everyone should continue to follow all the current guidance to protect themselves and others. This includes wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and avoiding crowds. People who live in care settings should continue to follow the rules about visitation and infection control.
One last note: Beware of vaccination scams
Older people who live independently should be careful to avoid vaccine-related scams. Senior Medicare Patrol warns that you should not provide your Medicare number to anyone who is not “your doctor, healthcare provider, or other trusted representative.” And suspect fraud if “someone comes to your door offering ‘free’ coronavirus testing, treatment, or supplies.”
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Senior Medicare Patrol