Vaccinating Seniors Against COVID-19 – The Good, and Not-So-Good News


As vaccination programs are being rolled out across the globe, and the fight against the novel coronavirus is kicking into high gear, there are, as is usually the case, some things for the senior community to celebrate and other things to cause concern.

Let’s start with the good news. The vaccines that are currently in use (the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines) have shown remarkably high efficacy ratings, pretty much guaranteeing immunity from the virus. Several other vaccines are in the pipeline of development and approval (ones from Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and Novavax, to name some), promising a growing arsenal of tools to help eradicate COVID-19. Governments have embraced these vaccines, entering into multiple ambitious contracts to purchase huge quantities of the vaccine, investing in the cold storage freezers that are required to keep the vaccines stable, and mobilizing their public health resources, distribution industries and, in some cases, military logistics expertise to rapidly respond to the explosive demand for the vaccines. As seniors are starting to roll up their sleeves to get their injections, research is showing that the elderly are suffering the vaccine’s potential side effects (arm soreness, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and fever) significantly less than younger people. While this is not yet fully understood, some experts are exploring whether it might be attributable to the gradual deterioration of one’s immune system over time. A less robust immune response that an elderly person may mount to the vaccine may result in less severe side effects.

The one counter-indication to this optimism is the recent news out of Norway, where it was reported that 33 seniors passed away after receiving their COVID-19 vaccines. While this cast a momentary pall over the enthusiasm surrounding COVID vaccines, a closer examination of the circumstances revealed that all those who passed away had severe underlying medical conditions, and that there was no evidence suggesting a causal link between the administration of the vaccine and their passing. Some experts feared that the vaccine may be unfairly blamed for deaths that would have occurred anyhow. Regardless, the Norwegian government has advised the medical community to assess on a case-by-case basis the appropriateness of giving the vaccine, and to do so only where the benefits of vaccination outweigh the potential shock that the vaccine may have on the constitution of a particularly frail and unwell person. Chances are this is sage advice for the administration of all vaccines.

And now for the not-so-good news. Quite appropriately, seniors living in long-term care and other congregate settings have been pushed to the front of the line in almost all vaccination plans. This is in response to some rather troubling statistics that demonstrate the vulnerability of long-term care residents. In Ontario, a staggering 60% of COVID-related deaths have been in long-term care homes. Clearly, we need to prioritize and protect these people. But what of the elderly living in the community – those who live independently but often in isolation? Age is the number one risk factor for contracting COVID and for the severity of its impact. All seniors, regardless of residence, are more likely to end up in hospital from, and sadly to succumb to, COVID infection. Canada’s National Advisory Council on Immunization recognized this, and recommended that seniors living in congregate settings, and those over 80 living in the community should be in the first phase of any vaccination campaign. Unfortunately, this recommendation has not been uniformly adopted across the provinces. In Ontario, for example, seniors living in the community will not be eligible for vaccination until Phase 2 is implemented, likely in March, 2021. And this schedule was set before the complications of vaccine supply delays emerged, presumably making the target of March vaccinations more difficult to meet. Many seniors are feeling overlooked. They see themselves slipping lower down the priority chain, with others leapfrogging ahead of them to lay claim to a very limited and precious weapon against the infection. Medical experts and advocacy groups such as C.A.R.P. are pressing the government for a more responsive and seniors-focussed vaccination roll-out strategy, one that recognizes the particular vulnerability of all seniors. However, as the vaccination effort is limping out of the starting gate, hobbled by supply shortages and logistical challenges, it is reasonable to expect that many seniors living in the community will have to stay patient while waiting for their vaccines.

In the meantime? Follow the public health guidelines of masking, physically distancing, washing your hands frequently and leaving your home as rarely as possible. And reach out to your family and friends. They will love to hear from you.

Stay safe and well,

Amy Lewtas,

Founder, RetroSparX Concepts Inc.

New to RetroSparX

We are pleased to announce the following new RetroSparX memory game units which have recently been released and can be found on our website ( We invite you to delve into the topics and tackle the memory games for seniors that comprise each unit. And we wish you happy reminiscing while you recall, relive and revel in these moments.

Recall the First Measles Vaccine

Learn about the scientists who dedicated themselves to finding a vaccine that would ward off the highly contagious and potentially lethal measles vaccine, and about the process that unfolded in that quest. As an added bonus, get an illustrated primer on how vaccines work together with our incredible immune systems to protect us from some of the worst diseases on the planet.

Included memory games for seniors

  • Find the missing letters to remember the names some of our world’s most infectious diseases in Vanquished by Vaccine. You will also discover which of these infections can be controlled (and ideally eradicated) by vaccine.
  • In Just What the Doctor Ordered find the word that will complete some phrase and titles inspired by the language of vaccines. Give these a ‘shot’ to ‘inject’ a little fun in your day!

Click here for a full description of the memory game unit.

Recall Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings was an icon of the evening news, a Canadian reporter whose thoughtful and analytical approach to the day’s events vaulted him to the top anchor job at ABC News for more than two decades. Read about his meteoric career and the qualities that he brought to his job that earned him a dedicated viewership.

Included memory games for seniors

  • In Anchors of the Airwaves answer clues to remember some of the most watched news personalities since the beginning of television, and a quote from Jerry Seinfeld (one that is guaranteed to make you smile) will be revealed.
  • News flash!! Unscramble words to build ‘newsy’ phrases in Newsworthy Nuggets.

Click here for a full description of the memory game unit.