Should Seniors Get the New Covid Booster?

covid booster

Remember the days when we all thought Covid would be over quickly and we would never have to deal with it again? Today we know better. And now that we do, we can plan for the future, which includes Covid boosters.


During the waning days of August, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Moderna boosters for those over the age of 18, and the use of Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for those over the age of 12. Very shortly after that, the CDC approved the same guidelines[1]. That means that if you are eligible to get one, you can do so as soon as your physician, health department, or local clinic has the new Omicron boosters on hand, which should be any day now.


This booster is different from the others that have been offered over the past year or so. This current booster is a “bivalent” shot, or a combination shot. That means half of the shot is the original vaccine that offers protection against the initial Covid strains, and the other half offers protection specifically against the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of Omicron. All previous boosters have offered only protection against the original Covid strains, which haven’t been as effective as the virus mutates[2].


The Omicron variant can get around the protections offered by the original vaccine and boosters. That’s why the previous boosters are no longer being offered and this new, updated booster will be the only option going forward[3].


Keep in mind that these boosters don’t make up for not getting any initial vaccinations. If you haven’t yet had a vaccination for Covid, you need to go through the process of getting those two shots. Then you can get the booster shot two months later. If you’ve been vaccinated or received a booster, you’ll need to wait two months before you can receive the new combination booster that targets Omicron.


The CDC strongly recommends that those over the age of 65 get the vaccines and boosters, as those who received the vaccines had a 94% reduced risk of being hospitalized if they contracted Covid. And that’s important, as approximately 400 people die from Covid each day[4]. But though those who are elderly should definitely get the booster, so should everyone else who is eligible. Covid doesn’t just sicken those of a certain age!


While you consider getting the booster, it’s a good time to consider other things that can help protect your good health, such as an emergency response system. A medical alert system with fall detection is always a good bet, as it provides the assistance you need not only at the touch of a button, but also has built-in fall sensors that can detect a fall and automatically send an alert for help, even if you cannot push the emergency button alarm yourself.


Why Vaccination and Boosters Matter


As colder weather rolls in, many activities will move indoors, where social distancing is harder and contracting Covid or other viruses is much more common. The drier air also makes it more likely for people to contract Covid, as the dry air irritates the respiratory tract and makes it easier for viruses to take hold. Besides that, the virus can drift around more when the air is dry, thus staying airborne longer and increasing your risk of contracting it, as explained by the Rhode Island Department of Health.


Why do we need to get boosters so often? Covid is changing rapidly, with new variants coming out at a rate faster than our scientists can keep up. The result is that new vaccines are tweaked ever-so slightly, resulting in better protections against emerging variants, like the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron. That matters because 90% of all infections today are the result of Omicron[5]. The updated vaccines are powerful enough to prevent serious illness and death, as well as potentially prevent transmission and infection with the virus[6].


Knowing when to get boosters is tricky, however. We know this from the history with the flu vaccine. Every year, flu vaccinations for millions of people take a good amount of time, and the shot doesn’t take effect immediately; a person needs a few weeks after the shot for their body to adjust and protection to kick in. But that protection from the flu diminishes after a few months, so it’s never a good idea to get it too early. That could simply mean that if you get the shot in October and the biggest wave of flu hits your area around February, you might not have enough protection to avoid it.


That’s a concern with the Covid boosters as well. The good news is that while the protection against contracting the illness does wane over time, the protection against serious complications continues for much longer. The American Hospital Association points out that even if you do get Covid after you get the vaccines, your odds of hospitalization, severe illness, or even death are greatly reduced.


So when should you get the new Omicron booster? In general, it is recommended to get the Covid booster by the end of October. And for even better protection, you can get the flu vaccine at the same time you get your Covid booster. Remember, you should wait for two months after your last Covid booster before you get the new one[7].


And when it comes to cost, don’t worry about that – Covid boosters are free[8].


How to Protect Yourself from Omicron


As the new variant potentially increases in circulation during the fall and winter season, finding ways to protect yourself is the key to avoiding it, or at least dealing with a much milder infection. Though it’s nice to think that the majority of those around us are getting vaccinated and boosted, thus providing community immunity, that might not always be the case.


Who is getting vaccinated? It varies from place to place, so you may want to check your state statistics. Those in Rhode Island are quite serious about negating the effects of Covid, with 85% of all residents fully vaccinated. But those in Wyoming – a state long known for its frontier lifestyle – saw only 51% of all residents vaccinated against Covid this past year[9].


No matter the vaccination or booster status of those around you, you must manage your health and well-being as much as possible. Here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid Omicron:


·         Be proactive. Protect yourself by getting your boosters. Remember, not only does getting the new booster protect you, but it can also protect those around you. More than 84% of Americans currently live in areas where the levels of Covid transmission are medium to high[10], so every vaccine and booster counts!

·         Wear a mask. Choose a high-quality mask like a KN95. Make sure it fits very well, covering your nose and mouth. Wear a mask anytime you are in a public space or a place where social distancing is not possible.

·         Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands well with soap and water on a regular basis. Wash for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer. Make sure it is alcohol-based and contains at least 60% alcohol[11].

·         Sanitize surfaces. Depending upon the nature of the material, the virus that causes Covid could survive for days on a surface[12]. To ensure you don’t contract Covid from touching something, make sure to sanitize your space well.  Sanitizing and cleaning solutions, such as Lysol, are great for wiping down areas that might have been touched by others.

·         Be aware of symptoms. The symptoms of a Covid infection can be similar to the flu and include muscle aches, sore throat, cough, fever, runny nose, fatigue, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Some will experience a loss of taste or smell. If you begin to experience shortness of breath, it’s time to call the doctor. This is a good time to have a medical alert pendant.

·         Have Covid tests on hand. Every household should have Covid tests on hand to test when symptoms arise. These tests are relatively inexpensive and might be covered by your insurance. But don’t stockpile them, because the expiration dates are likely to be less than a year into the future. Keeping two or three on hand for each person in your household should be sufficient. Check to learn when free shipments of Covid tests from the government will open up again and when it does, order some to have on hand.

·         Understand the rules for isolation. If you have Covid, stay out of contact with others, even those in the same household. Try to stay in a room by yourself and if possible, have your own bathroom to use. Wear a mask even in your home so that you can cut down on the risk of infecting those who live with you. You should stay in isolation for at least five days, more if you still have symptoms and feel poorly. After your fever is gone and you feel better, it’s important to wear a mask for an additional five days to protect others.  Go here to learn more about isolation guidance with Covid.


Remember that Covid can make you feel very sick and fatigued. Fatigue can easily lead to falls, so it’s important to employ fall prevention strategies as often as you can. In addition to things like grab bars and non-slip flooring, consider a medical alert device. A fall prevention device from Alert1 can give you the peace of mind that if Covid—or any other emergency—does come calling, you will have help a mere button push away. And in a world still fighting a global pandemic, peace of mind can be a beautiful thing.