Why seniors need to get COVID vaccines again

Updated vaccines provide better protection against new COVID variants. Photo: Unsplash

Flu season is coming, and newly updated COVID-19 vaccine came out following last year.  We want to share some information about COVID-19 vaccinations in this month’s column.

Q: I have already received the updated Bivalent COVID-19 vaccine when it came out last year. Do I still need to get vaccinated again?

A: Like the flu virus, the virus that causes COVID-19 has changed over time. The bivalent vaccine which was available since September 2022 isn’t well matched to the currently circulating strains of COVID. A new vaccine has been developed and was approved by the FDA on September 11, 2023. The new vaccine provides better protection against the currently prevalent COVID-19 variant and is available for administration starting from late September, 2023.

Q: Does everyone need to get the new COVID-19 vaccine?

A: CDC recommends everyone six months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the potentially serious outcomes of COVID-19 illness this fall and winter. Getting vaccinated every year is the best way to prevent serious illness requiring hospitalization. The people most at risk for getting very sick from COVID-19 are over age 65 or have health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease. The risk of hospitalization is pretty low for those under 18-year-olds. But if you are 65-74 that risk is 36 times higher. The older you are, the higher your risk is. So, if you are over age 65 or have underlying condition, it is especially important to get the most updated vaccine. Note that young people should be considered to get vaccinated not only for themselves but also to protect the older adults who live with them.

Q: If I already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get another vaccine?

A: COVID-19 vaccine after you recovered from COVID-19 infection provides added protection. You may consider delaying your vaccine by at least three months from when your symptoms started or, if you had no symptoms, when you recovered from a positive test. People who already had COVID-19 and don’t get vaccinated after their recovery are more likely to get COVID-19 again than those who get vaccinated after their recovery.

Q: Do I need to wait after getting a flu vaccine or another vaccine before getting a COVID-19 vaccine?

A:There is no recommended waiting period between getting a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines. You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, including a flu vaccine, at the same visit. Possible side effects after getting vaccinated are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines. Talk to your healthcare provider about getting vaccines.

Q: Does my health insurance cover the flu and COVID-19 vaccines? What if I don’t have health insurance?

A: Yes, Medicare Part B and most state Medicaid cover flu and COVID-19 vaccines at no cost. All Health Insurance Marketplace plans and most other private insurance plans cover these vaccines without charging out-of-pocket cost when provided by an in-network provider.

People who don’t have health insurance or with health plans that do not cover the cost can get a free vaccine from their local health centers; state, local, tribal, or territorial health department; and pharmacies participating in the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. Your state health department can tell you where to go for free and low-cost vaccines, including community centers, schools, and religious centers.

The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of AANHPI older adults and their families.  We operate a NAPCA Senior Assistance Center for Older Adults and Caregivers and is available in 5 different languages. 

If you have additional questions on Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace, Social Security Retirement Benefit, Supplemental Security Income, or COVID/Flu vaccination, there are 3 ways you can reach us today:

-Call our Senior Assistance Center at: (English) 1-800-336-2722, (Korean) 1-800-582-4259,

(Chinese Mandarin) 1-800-683-7427, (Cantonese) 1-800-582-4218, (Vietnamese) 1-800-582-4336

-Email: askNAPCA@napca.org

-Mail: NAPCA Senior Assistance Center, 1511 3rd Avenue, Suite 914, Seattle, WA 98101

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