How to Choose the Best COVID Vaccine for Seniors

Posted on 12/02/2021

The chance of contracting a serious COVID-19 case rises with age. With the Delta variant being a powerful and highly transmissible strain, vaccination is an even more crucial part of public health, infectious disease management, and your personal safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that individuals over the age of 65 years should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

However, which COVID vaccine is the superior choice for seniors? There are several differences between the available vaccines.

COVID-19 Types of Vaccine

There are a number of COVID-19 vaccines under development, but only three of them are currently available in the United States. mRNA vaccines and viral vector vaccines are the two types of vaccines available.

mRNA Vaccines

The mRNA vaccines are a relatively new technique. Other vaccines use a weakened or dead virus to stimulate the immune system, but these vaccines utilize messenger RNA, also known as mRNA, from the virus. Messenger RNA is an information blueprint that instructs cells how to produce proteins. The cell breaks down the mRNA after it has completed producing proteins.

The vaccines contain mRNA from the virus' outer layer, which is a non-harmful protein, and deliver it to your body. The mRNA is used by your cells to manufacture viral proteins, and your immune system responds by producing antibodies against it. These anti-viral immune proteins will attack the virus if you become exposed.

Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna are mRNA vaccines.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

In August 2021, the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration under the brand name Comirnaty for individuals aged sixteen and above. ‌

Vaccine Effectiveness

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization by 95% in individuals aged 65 years and older. Those who received only one dose of the vaccine were 64% less likely to be hospitalized than people who weren't vaccinated in this age group.

Pfizer-BioNTech has high effectiveness in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

Common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Sore arm
  • Tiredness
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

Side effects are generally minor, according to research, although more severe symptoms are prevalent after the second dose. The Pfizer vaccine comes with a warning label for heart muscle or heart lining inflammation in young adults.

Moderna Vaccine

The FDA authorized the Moderna vaccination for emergency use in 2020. The FDA modified the guidelines in August 2021 to allow it to be used as a booster shot for immunocompromised individuals as well.

Vaccine Effectiveness

All mRNA vaccines are highly successful in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Seniors aged 65 years and older who received two doses of Moderna were 95% less likely to be hospitalized. Those who received one dose were 64% less likely to be hospitalized.

Common side effects include:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Sore arm
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Chills

The common side effects tend to be moderate, although they may be more severe with the second dose. Moderna also includes a warning for young adults about the possibility of heart inflammation in rare cases.

Covid Vaccines

Viral Vector Vaccines

‌A viral vector vaccine uses a harmless virus as a transport to deliver data to your immune system. The carrier or vector virus for COVID-19 vaccines is altered with an inactive protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Your body perceives this protein as an invader and produces immune proteins that target it. This way, the next time you come in contact with the COVID-19 virus, these immune proteins will identify it as harmful and fight against it before severe symptoms can develop.‌

The Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine is a viral vector vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson Janssen Vaccine

The Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine was authorized for emergency use against COVID-19 in February 2021. The authorization was altered in April 2021 to include warnings about the potential occurrence of rare blood clots among those who receive the vaccination. It's a one-time shot.

Vaccine Effectiveness

Protection happens about two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Clinical trials show that people who received the single dose of this vaccine were 66.9% less likely to have moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization.

‌The second week after receiving a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is when protection begins. According to clinical trials, those who received a single dose of this immunization were 66.9% less likely to have moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization.

Common side effects include:

  • Pain and swelling in your arm
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills

Some people may develop blood clots with abnormally low platelets in very rare circumstances.

Getting Vaccinated

Seniors in the United States may obtain free vaccines regardless of their health care insurance status. While it is a personal decision between you and your doctor, remember that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are both still on Emergency Use Authorization with the FDA at the time of writing this article. The CDC advises all older adults to be vaccinated, but there may be some exceptions. If you have severe allergies or are concerned about your health, consult with your doctor.