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Questions about COVID-19 vaccines and older adults

Older adults and their caregivers have questions about the vaccine, from its safety and effectiveness, to questions about timelines. As with all things COVID-19 related, it is important to get your information from reputable sources. To save you time and energy, we have done the leg work, so to speak, and draw on expert sources to answer common questions about the vaccine.

Reputable sources of vaccine information

The internet is a wonderful thing for access to information about virtually everything. The challenge can be to determine what is fact and what is opinion or misinformation. With so much information and misinformation, it can be hard to know who or what to believe. In the world of health and wellness and medicine, you want your sources to be up-to-date and based on science, research and best practices. There used to be a detective program on television (Dragnet) that has a line associated with that show that seems to fit the current situation: “Just the facts, ma’am”. That’s wise advice today as we navigate our way through this COVID-10 pandemic and are now at the stage of having access to vaccines.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is an excellent source for up-to-date medical and scientific advice about the COVID-19 vaccination. This is an agency of the Government of Canada (federal government) responsible for public health, and infectious and chronic disease control and prevention.

A second reputable source of information and guidance is the National Institute on Aging, which is a public policy and research centre in Canada. The NIA has just released an extremely helpful report, one which draws on leading experts to answer common questions people have about the COVID-19 vaccines. And the focus is on older Canadians. This is a welcome report for those who want scientific answers and guidance presented in clear, accessible language.

Approved vaccines for use in Canada (as of March 15, 2021)

VaccineDate authorized for use in CanadaDoses (2nd dose, 4 to 12 weeks later)
Pfizer-BioNTechDecember 9 20202
ModernaDecember 23, 20202
AstraZenecaFebruary 26, 20212
Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)March 5, 20211

Why get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves and those around us  from serious illnesses like

The vaccine is recommended even if you have already contracted COVID-19.  Why? Because reinfection is possible. Early evidence suggests that natural immunity may not last longer than several months.

The vaccine is not a license to abandon public health measures

While the vaccine reduces the risk of you getting sick and dying with the virus, it does not stop you catching and spreading it. It is still necessary, therefore, to follow the public health measures after receiving the vaccine. You know the drill: hand hygiene, stay home when sick, maintain physical distancing, and wear a face mask as appropriate.  limit inside gatherings.

COVID-19 Vaccines – What Older Canadians Need to Know: Highlights

COVID-19 vaccine a result of decades of research

While the vaccine for COVID-19 has captured the attention of all of us, many of us are probably unaware that the research for other strains of the coronavirus has been going on for literally decades. Increased funding and collaboration between scientists sped up the development and testing of the COVID-19 vaccine. That is, no shortcuts have been made in terms of either safety or effectiveness.

Side effects for older adults are no different than for rest of the population.

Vaccine side effects mean that the body’s immune system is kicking in and getting ready to recognize and fight of the virus. Vaccine side effects may include a sore arm where you were injected, a headache, muscle aches, fatigue,
fever or diarrhea that can last for a day or two, and rarely more than a few days. If side effects last longer than two days, contact your doctor.

People should NOT take acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol) or other anti-inflammatory drugs before getting vaccinated to prevent postvaccination symptoms.

Theoretically, acetaminophens, like Tylenol, could weaken a person’s immune system and make the vaccine less effective. They can be taken after receiving the vaccine if experiencing side effects.

When will we be able to resume our pre-COVID lives?

Vaccinations are the key to resuming our pre-COVID-19 lives. You may have herd of community or ‘herd immunity’. An infectious disease specialist describes it this way: “The idea of herd immunity is that you have enough people in the population who are immune [to a virus] and you’re either immune because you had the infection already, or you’ve been vaccinated”. If you have enough people who are immune in the population, then the infection won’t spread as easily.

Experts state that we will have likely to have achieved this ‘herd immunity’ when more than 80 % of Canadians get vaccinated. This may allow us to a return to a level of normalcy.

The Canadian government states that every Canadian who wants a COVID-19  vaccine will be able to get one by September, 2021.

When and where can I get vaccinated?

In terms of timing, and where you can get vaccinated, the federal government provides up-to-date information for each province and territory. Just click on the relevant province link:

Consult your doctor

Older adults are advised to consult their doctor if they have questions regarding the regarding the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for them.  Your doctor will know your medical situation/condition best and they will also be able to inform you of the latest information and advice.

Have you or someone you know had the vaccine yet? We would love to hear from you.

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  • Bob Hummell
    Wed Mar 17 2021, 10:20
    My mother is 96 years young lives in Scarborough not in LTC but on her own. No one has contacted her in regards to vaccination. Not her doctor,health care anyone.
  • Carole Anne Coffey
    Sun Mar 21 2021, 08:24
    Only my daughter-in-law has been vaccinated as she's a health care worker. I am over 65 but under 70. I have Familial pulmonary fibrosis. I am wondering if it's recommended that I get the vaccine?
    • JaneVock
      Mon Apr 05 2021, 09:42
      Good Morning,I think it is best for you to consult with your doctor about this question. Thanks for reaching out. Take good care.
  • Noushin
    Sun Apr 04 2021, 14:01
    2 questions 1- is there any interaction between prednisone and vaccine? 2- with awful experience from first dosage should he get the second dosage?My husband is 74 years old. He had his first dose of pfizer vaccine. The full side effect lasted more than 5 days and still he is not fully well. He is on daily 10 ml prednisone because of pituitary gland surgery he had 7 years ago. Is there any interaction between Pfizer vaccine and prednisone? The fist day after vaccination he had extreme nausea and gaging whole night , then inflammation on his left side of whole shoulder vaccine site with extreme pain in his shoulder. Plus loss of balance. Could not move his left hand for 3 days. End of second day he developed extreme confusion which i had to take him to hospital. He could not distinguish between his dream and reality. He was seeing unreal things when awake. Today is the 6 day and his confusion is much better but still weak muscles. I am now wondering if he should get the second dosage?? It is scary. Does the pfizer vaccine mess up your brain?
    • JaneVock
      Mon Apr 05 2021, 09:32
      Hello,My suggestion is that you call the pharmacist and/or your doctor with this question, as it is a medical question. I understand your concerns about the second dosage. A pharmacist may be able to answer the question about different experiences and effects from the second versus the first dose, and whether there is any interaction between prednisone and the vaccine.I am sorry to hear this has been such a rough time with this vaccine. Take good care. Jane