COVID-19 Vaccine Talking Points for Communicating With Older Adults

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Building vaccine awareness, confidence, and education among older adults

Most adults 65 and older in the United States have gotten a COVID vaccine. But many may not understand their risk for severe illness and the importance of staying up to date with their COVID vaccine.

Use these talking points to increase vaccine education and confidence with older adult audiences.

Don’t shy away from the tough questions and conversations. This makes you aware of the pulse of the community and how you should tailor your messaging.

Share key messages through emails, newsletters, social media posts, and other channels.

Provide information and resources to health care facilities with older adult–targeted messaging about COVID vaccines, how they’re developed and monitored for safety, and how health care staff can speak specifically to older adults about the vaccines.

Encourage people who have been vaccinated to be vaccine champions. Ask them to share testimonials about why they got vaccinated and why they stay up to date with their vaccine. Promote their stories as part of your outreach efforts.

Start from a place of empathy and understanding

The pandemic has been stressful for everyone, especially older adults.

The first step is to acknowledge the disruption COVID has caused on all our lives and provide a space to recognize common concerns that can be addressed by staying up to date with one’s COVID vaccine.

Empowering the older adult community

Empower older adults by helping them feel confident in their decision to get vaccinated, to stay up to date with their vaccine, and to recommend getting vaccinated to their friends and family. This is the element that is most important for your discussions.

Empowering tactics include:

  • Engaging national organizations focused on older adults, health systems, health care personnel, local community organizations, and churches early and often to ensure a clear understanding of the vaccine development and approval process, new vaccine technologies, and the benefits of vaccination.
  • Using your platform to have empathetic vaccine conversations, address myths and common questions, and provide tailored vaccine information to the older adult community.

Talking Points

Older adults need to stay up to date with their COVID vaccine

CDC recommends people 65 and older stay up to date with their COVID vaccine because they are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from COVID. 

Where to get vaccinated

Find vaccines near you at

Side effects from COVID vaccines

Possible side effects include:

  • Soreness or swelling on the arm where you receive the shot
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache

Side effects are usually mild and should last at most a few days.

Vaccine Safety

The COVID vaccines available in the United States meet the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety and effectiveness. 

Most adults in the United States have gotten a COVID vaccine, and all COVID vaccines will continue to be monitored for safety.

Serious health effects from vaccines are very rare. It’s highly unlikely that COVID vaccines will cause long-term health problems.

Your risk for serious health problems from a COVID vaccine is much lower than your risk if you’re unvaccinated and get COVID. COVID can leave you with heart and lung damage and other conditions that require long-term treatment.

Vaccine Effectiveness

All available COVID vaccines work well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID.

To get the most protection, you need to stay up to date with your COVID vaccine.

The number of doses you need to stay up to date with your COVID vaccine and when to get them depend on two things:

  • Your age 
  • Whether you have certain health conditions

Talk to your vaccine or health care provider about when you need to get a COVID vaccine dose.

People with weakened immune systems need extra vaccine doses

People with weakened immune systems are less able to fight infections. If any of the following apply to you, you may need additional vaccine doses:

  • You have a moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency disorder, such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.
  • You have an advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  • You’ve ever had an organ transplant or had a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years.
  • You’re being treated with corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medicines for such conditions as arthritis, asthma, or an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, sarcoidosis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis.
  • You’re being treated for cancer.

Talk to your health care provider about how many COVID vaccine doses you need.

How the available COVID vaccines work

The COVID vaccines available in the United States introduce your immune system to the spike protein found on the surface of the coronavirus.

Your immune system sees the spike protein as an invading germ and reacts by creating cells that will be ready to identify and attack the coronavirus if you’re exposed to it. 

The vaccines don’t contain the coronavirus, so you can’t get COVID from them.

Once your immune system is introduced to the spike protein, your body breaks down the vaccine ingredients and gets rid of them.

At no point do the vaccines change or interact with your DNA.

Will COVID vaccines prevent me from infecting others?

If you stay up to date with your COVID vaccine, you’re less likely to get and spread COVID.

If you’re exposed to someone with COVID or if you get COVID, there are things you can do to prevent spreading COVID. These include:

  • Keeping your distance from other people
  • Wearing a high-quality mask if you must be around others at home or in public 

For more information

For more information about COVID and the vaccines, go to