Health officials address older Utahns COVID-19 vaccine concerns

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(ABC4 News) – The University of Utah Health participated in a COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A Tuesday addressing concerns older Utahns have about the new vaccine and its availability. 

Educators and older adults can now get vaccinated in Utah. During this time, a lot of information is being shared on social media, online, and through conversations. University of Utah Health care experts answered many Utahns common questions about the vaccine and what older adults can expect.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, the risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, the older the adult the higher the risk. Since the coronavirus pandemic first started in March of 2020, people at increased risk and those who live or visit with them have been advised to take serious health precautions in efforts to protect those they love from contracting COVID-19.

When the FDA announced the emergency approval of two new COVID-10 vaccines, older Utahns hope was restored to see a light at the end of what has been a dark tunnel.

Tuesday, Emily Spivak, MD, associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, and Mark Supiano, MD, Chief of the Division of Geriatrics with U of U Health addressed questions about the COVID-19 vaccine being safe for Utahns 70 and older.

The health officials both reassured the Pfizer and the Moderna coronavirus vaccines are safe for older Utahns to receive. 

Many are worried about getting sick or experiencing COVID like symptoms after getting the vaccine. Health officials say you cannot get COVID-19 from your dose of the vaccine, so any experienced symptoms should be mild and short-lived.

Anyone who does experience symptoms is likely to feel them as their system is working to build immunity to the virus, 12 to 24 hours after the vaccine is administered. 

According to Dr. Spivak, COVID-19 data collected on older individuals reviewing the vaccine suggests it is less likely for older adults receiving the vaccine to experience vaccine reactions or symptoms at all.

Those experiencing reactions are 11 in 1 million, Dr. Spivak adds. 

Health officials also added it is more likely for an individual to contract CVOID-19 than it is for an individual to experience severe side effects from getting the vaccine. 

A question on most older Utahns minds is can they feel safe gathering with loved ones after receiving both vaccine doses. U of U Health officials say sadly, the answer to that question is unknown.

U of U Health officials says the first dose of the vaccine is around 50-55% effective. The second dose is around 95% effective, 7-14 days after it is administered. 

Pfizer and Moderna say they are gathering more evidence about whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus. With so much still unknown health officials advise Utahns of all ages to continuing health safety precautions.

The need to social distance and wear a mask is still a likely reality until more data is released, health officials add.

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