This piece originally appeared on the Health Feed blog.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and many of us can’t wait to gather with family and friends after nearly two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all weary of the pandemic, but now is not the time to let down our guard. COVID-19 booster doses are now authorized for anyone age 18 years and older. Just like everyone else, older adults—people age 65 or older—deserve to be able to safely enjoy spending time with those who matter most to them over the holidays.
“As geriatricians, we want to ensure that those who are most vulnerable to COVID and influenza, namely, older adults, avoid becoming ill,” says University of Utah Health geriatrician Timothy Farrell, M.D. U of U Health participates in the national Age-Friendly Health Systems movement, which prioritizes care for older adults based on what matters most to them.
“It is extremely important that all older adults 65 years and older receive their primary COVID vaccine series if they have not already done so,” Farrell emphasizes. “In addition, all older adults who received their primary COVID vaccine series should receive their booster shot as soon as possible.” He adds that everyone 65 years and older should also get an influenza vaccination.
Approximately 85% of older adults in the U.S. have received their primary COVID-19 vaccinations. These vaccines are incredibly effective in reducing the severity of illness, hospitalization, and deaths due to COVID-19. As a result, those vaccinated older adults who have breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are still at much lower risk of hospitalization and death than older adults who are unvaccinated.
However, older adults’ immune systems work less well than those of younger adults. If an older adult who received their primary vaccine series does not receive a booster, their immunity will eventually no longer be protective. This is exactly what we’re seeing today. Hospitalizations and deaths in breakthrough COVID-19 infections are more common today among older adults than younger adults.
That’s why it’s so important for older adults to get their booster dose. “We urge all Utahns 65 years and older to update their COVID vaccination status so that they can safely do what matters most to them over the holidays,” says Farrell.
COVID-19 vaccines are free and readily available throughout the U.S. at local health departments, retail pharmacies and doctor’s offices. Visit vaccines.gov or call 1-800-232-0233 to find a convenient location near you.