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The COVID-19 pandemic has remade the world in 2020. It was an unexpected challenge, but the world has risen to meet it. As of December 2020, there are two vaccines that have been extensively tested across all age groups. The Pfizer vaccine is already approved for use in the USA. Another, from Moderna, may also be approved before the end of the year.

This is great news for senior citizens. Their demographic has been hardest hit by the pandemic. Nursing homes and other senior living facilities were some of the earliest and hardest-hit communities in the US. Finding ways to keep senior citizens safe has been a priority for government at every level during the pandemic.

In trials, seniors who received the vaccine showed a strong response to it. The Pfizer vaccine is up to 94% effective in senior citizens. Moderna’s vaccine shows up to 87% effectiveness. With such good rates, it’s possible that seniors may be able to get back to normal soon. For months, many of them have been unable to visit with family, shop at normal hours or participate in activities.

In practical terms, both vaccines are administered via injections. The full vaccine is comprised of two injections given about three weeks apart. This means that although one vaccine is now available, it will still be some time before people are actually fully vaccinated.

Currently, the plan for vaccine distribution is designed to prioritize senior citizens in care facilities. The vaccines were not specifically tested on the frail elderly population that can characterize nursing homes. It remains to be seen whether the weakest people will receive it, or whether they will need to rely on herd immunity and the extension of precautions like masks for protection.

Essential workers like nursing home caregivers are expected to receive a dose of the vaccine at the same time as residents, or immediately after them. This should provide another layer of protection for the most vulnerable elderly people. So far, setting priorities for who gets the vaccine has been all about the risk COVID-19 poses to various people. Other personnel who come into contact with vulnerable elders, like EMTs and hospital workers, are near the front of the line for the vaccine.