The Senior’s Guide to the COVID-19 Vaccine

We answer your questions about the vaccine’s effectiveness and what’s happening with the rollout.

The COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon for seniors. In some states, older residents are already getting vaccinated. This is news to celebrate, as seniors are especially vulnerable to the virus. Read on for answers to some common questions about the vaccine rollout. 

Which seniors will have access to the vaccine first?

If you reside in an assisted living facility or nursing home, you’ll likely gain access to the vaccine before seniors who live on their own. States are determining their own plans for vaccine rollout, and they are giving priority to frontline workers and seniors in particularly vulnerable groups. 

As of January 6, over 17 million doses have been distributed around the U.S., and over 5 million people have been vaccinated. Over 3 million of the total doses have been given to long-term care facilities this far, with others going to frontline workers and medical staff.

Which vaccines will be available?

Vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna are currently being administered. AstraZeneca has also developed a vaccine that has been approved for emergency use in several countries. The AstraZeneca vaccine might prove useful for reaching people in underserved regions, as it can stand up to higher temperatures and has a lower cost per dose.

How effective are the vaccines?

Pfizer’s vaccine has an efficacy rate of 94% in people 65 and older. The Moderna vaccine offers 87% efficacy for seniors. The AstraZeneca vaccine has an efficacy of 70%, on average, but it can reach up to 90% with adjusted dosing.

Whichever vaccine you have access to in your local area, be aware that COVID-19 will probably not be completely eradicated in the first half of 2021, according to experts. You’ll have a strong level of protection, but it will remain wise to take precautions like being selective about who you spend time with in person. Importantly, we don’t know how effective the vaccines are at stopping asymptomatic spread.

Further, we don’t know how long the vaccines will protect for—it could be months or years.

The vaccines will undoubtedly let us get back to some of our favorite activities, like family gatherings (at least smaller ones). At the same time, experts are urging caution. Each of us will need to weigh our comfort level against the potential risks of socializing or going out in public. Following smart practices like wearing masks, social distancing, and having clear conversations with the people you do spend time with will help ensure everyone’s safety. 


ABC News, “Now That We Have Two Vaccines, Will Life Return to Normal?”

CDC, “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States”

CNN, “CDC Says Severe Allergic Reactions to Coronavirus Vaccine Are Rare”

Kaiser Health News, “What Seniors Can Expect When COVID-19 Vaccines Begin to Roll Out”

Prevention, “How Does the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Compare to Pfizer’s and Moderna’s?”

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