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Give Older Adults a Boost with COVID Vaccinations

We are all weary of the pandemic, but it's not time to let down our guard. COVID-19 booster doses are authorized for anyone 6 months and older.

"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 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 shots 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 everyone who is eligible to update their COVID vaccination status so that they can safely do what matters most to them," says Farrell.