Talking to Your Senior Loved One About the COVID-19 Vaccine

March 30, 2021
TalkingToSeniorsAboutCOVID-19Vaccines-(002).pngIf you have an elderly loved one, you may have been waiting anxiously for the COVID-19 vaccine. Because COVID-19 symptoms can be more dangerous for older people, it’s natural for you to want your loved one to receive a vaccine as quickly as possible. For some older people, however, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is an intimidating prospect. Because COVID-19 testing and approval took place at such an unprecedented pace, your seniors may have concerns, worries, or even fears about its safety. Here, we offer some suggestions for allaying those concerns and helping your seniors determine the best course of action for their health care.  
  • Start off with an open discussion. Acknowledge your loved one’s worries with validating statements like “I understand your concerns.” Reiterate what the person says, to show that you hear what’s being stated, in order to effectively communicate. Ask questions to better understand the other’s point of view. Offer information and provide reassurance. 
  • Talk about the efficacy rate of the vaccine. Seniors are at a greatly increased risk of serious consequences from COVID-19, which is why it’s important for them to get the vaccine. They should know that the vaccine is a powerful tool against the virus, with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at 94.1% efficacy and the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at 95%. The most recent vaccine, from Johnson and Johnson, has a 90% efficacy rate, but studies have shown that it’s 100% effective in reducing severe effects of COVID-19, like hospitalization and death. 
  • Acknowledge concerns about risks. The vaccines were approved very quickly, so it’s understandable that people might be worried about risks and side effects. However, they’ve been thoroughly tested. Research indicates side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are minimal, like a low-grade fever or pain at the injection site. Further, the information we have so far indicates that older adults may have a lower risk of side effects from the vaccine than younger people. 
  • Know who to trust. There’s so much information—and misinformation—swirling around about the COVID-19 vaccine. Make sure to get your information from reliable, unbiased sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  or the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It’s also smart to talk to your doctor about the vaccine. A person’s doctor can not only explain the most recent COVID-19 vaccine update, but can also discuss whether the vaccine is appropriate, considering the individual’s allergies and medical conditions. 
  • Talk about the testing. While the process may have seemed rushed, the vaccine testing was actually quite rigorous. It might be helpful to share information about how the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety were established. 
    • The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was tested on 44,000 people, with 41% if the participants over 56 years of age.
    • The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial had 30,351 participants, including older adults, 25% over the age of 65.
    • The Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials involved about 45,000 people, 34% of them over age 60.
    • In trials for all three vaccines, scientists overseeing the studies observed participants after they received the vaccine and noted only minor side effects over the course of two months. 
  • Address the goal of a return to normalcy. The COVID-19 vaccine won’t miraculously transport us all back to our pre-pandemic lives. However, seniors who receive the vaccine are taking the first step toward a less restricted lifestyle, a return to hobbies and in-person interaction with friends and loved ones. 
At BrightStar Care, we know that healthcare can sometimes be confusing, and caring for a family member can be challenging. Because we believe that caring is more than just a job, our nurses, therapists, CNAs, and caregivers offer the most professional compassionate care available, in the comforting, familiar surroundings of home. Further, because we have a Director of Nursing overseeing all care, at every level, whether personal or skilled, our patients and their family members have access to someone with insight regarding COVID-19 vaccination. If you have questions related to the vaccines, or any follow-up questions, feel free to ask and we'll offer expert advice.