By: Dr. Dali Fan, UC Davis Health
The winter is fast approaching and bringing in colder weather, it is more important than ever to get yourself and your family vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. For people ages 65 and older, getting the updated COVID-19 booster is critically important since the risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 increases with age.
Covid-19 infection causes the highest hospitalization and death rates among older adults and getting your COVID-19 booster can help reduce the risk of infection and severe illness. Adults between the ages of 50 and 64 are 25 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than adults between the ages of 18 and 29. For older adults ages 65 to 74, the risk increases significantly and rises to 60 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than younger adults. We know that older adults are best protected from severe illness when they stay up to date with booster doses. Getting vaccinated and boosted can help reduce the number of inpatients and avoid overwhelming hospitals and care centers.
I am a physician; I care about your health, and I implore you to do your part and get vaccinated and boosted to protect yourself and your loved ones. If you feel sick, be sure to get tested before participating in any gatherings this holiday season to minimize the risk of exposing others. As we look forward to seeing our family and friends this holiday season, I am sharing responses to some commonly asked questions to ensure you and your family are protected.
Question: Is it safe to gather with my family for the holidays if infection rates are expected to be high?
Response: We know seeing family and friends are an important part of the holidays. When gathering, it is highly recommended that you take the proper precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. That means it is okay to set rules so that you are all celebrating safely. Before gathering, encourage your friends and family to:
- Get vaccinated and their updated booster
- Test for COVID before and after the gathering
- Stay home if you feel sick
- Consider wearing a mask. A great host idea is to place a basket of masks at the door to encourage your guests to wear a mask.
Question: The threat of COVID-19 does not feel as dangerous anymore. Do I still need to wear a mask?
Response: Wearing a mask in public indoor spaces also helps reduce the spread of many different respiratory viruses including RSV, flu and COVID.
All of us are tired of hearing about COVID-19, but the virus is still here and continues to have an impact on our lives. Research shows that COVID-19 has shortened our overall life expectancy by about three years, with greater impacts on communities of color. There are many contributing factors to why communities of color are disproportionately impacted, but what we do know is that getting vaccinated and staying up to date with the updated boosters can help close this gap and increase health outcomes.
Question: Why should I prioritize getting my parents and/or grandparents boosted with the updated booster when they were just vaccinated last Spring?
Response: Booster doses help sustain protection against severe disease. That is why it is especially important to encourage older populations to get the updated booster to reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 and minimize the health impacts if they do get sick. Additionally, there are long-term effects such as strokes, migraines, memory problems, depression and anxiety, seizures and tremors, and other symptoms like what is experienced with Parkinson’s disease that could come with getting COVID-19.
Question: I am young and healthy. Why do I still need to get the updated booster?
Response: COVID-19 and its variants are circulating. The updated booster is recommended even if you’ve already had COVID-19 infection and the COVID-19 vaccination because it helps sustain your protection against severe disease and reduce your risk of hospitalization and death.
Question: Am I eligible to receive a booster? I thought they were limited to only certain groups.
Response: Everyone ages 5 and up is eligible and encouraged to get their booster. Staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccine and the updated booster shot provides you with the best protection. That is why it is important to get your booster dose as soon as you are eligible, typically two months after receiving your last dose. Also, your booster can be a different vaccine brand than you received previously, which does not impact its ability to protect you.
Question: I just received my flu shot. Is it still safe for me to get my booster?
Response: Yes! Not only is it very convenient, but it is also completely safe to get both your flu shot and updated booster at the same time.
We know the holidays are a busy time of year. Do your part to stay healthy so that you can fully enjoy the many celebrations with family and friends now through the new year. Learn more about how to stay safe and to make your next vaccination or booster appointment today by visiting MyTurn.ca.gov or call 833-422-4255.