Do Seniors Need the COVID Booster Shot?

The CDC is recommending that certain individuals receive another COVID booster shot.

covid booster shot

Just over a year ago, the world waited with bated breath at the prospect of a COVID vaccine. The vaccine was seen as a way for senior family members to safely reunite with their loved ones and enjoy a greater sense of normalcy. Just before the end of the year, the world got its wish with the initial rollout of a new vaccine. Seniors getting vaccinated became a top priority.

Now, nearly a year later, the CDC is talking about a potential third shot for certain individuals. Is your senior loved one among them?

What Is the Third COVID Shot?

When the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were first being distributed, it was recommended that users receive a booster shot about six weeks after the first shot. Additional research now shows that for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients, a third booster may provide additional protections. 

The third shot is largely intended for individuals who are considered to be immunocompromised—their immune defenses are lower compared to the average individual, reducing their ability to fight infection and disease.

According to the National Council on Aging, research shows that up to half of immunocompromised people who didn’t develop antibodies or immunity from COVID-19 with the first two vaccine doses do receive some level of protection with a third dose.

Pros and Cons of a Third COVID Shot

covid booster shot

As with any health decision regarding a loved one, it’s important to understand whether a third shot is in their best interest. To help reach a decision, it’s helpful to look at the pros and cons:

Pro: A Booster Increases COVID-19 Antibodies

Research shows that getting a third COVID-19 shot triples the neutralizing antibody levels. The interval between the second and third dose is longer. However, experts point to this longer interval as providing more robust immunity.

Con: Every Vaccine Comes with Side Effects

As with the first two doses, the third dose is likely to come with side effects. These are reportedly milder compared to earlier doses and include pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, and joint and muscle pain.

Pro: It Increases Protection Against the Delta Variant

The surge in the Delta variant is a key prompt for many to consider a third dose of the COVID vaccine. Because the Delta variant is more contagious, the third dose may help to reduce the chances of infection or serious illness.

Con: Vaccines Are Only Part of the Solution

Even after full vaccination, those who are immunocompromised are still encouraged to wear masks, social distance, and avoid crowds. Vaccines are not a perfect solution, even though they do help to increase protection among the most vulnerable.

Bottom Line: Should Seniors Get the COVID Vaccine Booster?

Elderly individuals are often among the immunocompromised. However, the third dose is not recommended for everyone. Your best resource is to check with your senior’s physician to get their expert advice. As more data and research becomes available on the third dose, families will continue to be able to make informed decisions for their health and the health of their loved ones.

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