Jan 26, 2021 Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Safe for Seniors?

Many seniors have been asking if the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) are safe for them, and whether they should get vaccinated. Jessica Israel, MD, Senior Vice President, Geriatrics and Palliative Care at RWJBarnabas Health explains that the answer to both questions is unequivocally: yes. She explains why the vaccines are safe and why their benefits far outweigh their side effects.


As a practicing geriatrician, the number one question I'm getting from patients in phone calls and office visits is "Is this vaccine safe for me?" and the answer to that question is unequivocally yes.

This is a safe vaccine that prevents COVID-19.

How do I know it's safe?

Because in the studies done to look at the efficacy of the vaccine, it was actually studied in older adults and not just healthy seniors but seniors with medical problems.

In addition, it was studied in a racially diverse population.

I have been getting a lot of phone calls from my patients about the side effects of the vaccine worried that maybe the side effects outweigh the benefits of the vaccine.

This is really important to address because the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs the side effects.

Every vaccine that we give not just the COVID vaccine has an expected set of side effects that are essentially normal and they include things like redness at the vaccine site like tenderness at the vaccine site and in some patients it includes maybe a day or so of feeling a little bit of tiredness and maybe some muscle aches.

Those are normal and expected side effects and not things that I worry about.

Patients are also asking "If I have the vaccine, does that mean I don't have to wear a mask anymore?" and unfortunately at least for now, the answer to that is no, you still have to wear a mask, you still have to wash your hands and you still have to observe physical distancing.

Why? Because we don't know if the virus can continue to be transmitted by someone who has been vaccinated and the other thing that is a piece of that is it depends really in the long run on how many of us are vaccinated. The more of us that are vaccinated, the less likely the virus will be able to find a home in another person because we will together be able to fight it.

I encourage everyone to register for the vaccine online register yourself and register the people that you love as more vaccine comes to New Jersey those appointments will become available to you.