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Sharp Health News

How older adults can get the COVID-19 vaccine

Jan. 14, 2021

Doctor gives coronavirus vaccine to an older adult
As adult children grow accustomed to somewhat of a reversal of roles - often becoming caregivers rather than recipients - they may now have a new focus in their effort to support their parents' health: ensuring they receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

"The risk for severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization or death increases with age," says Dr. Lisa Arian, medical director at Sharp Health Plan. "In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been in people 65 and over. By ensuring that our older adults are vaccinated, we decrease their risk of infection and illness, prevent the spread of COVID-19, and help stop the pandemic, allowing us to return to the life we have missed over the past several months."

There are currently two highly effective vaccines against COVID-19 that have received emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Both vaccines are mRNA vaccines and require two doses given over 3 or 4 weeks for full protection.

As these vaccines are being distributed throughout the country, adult children are wondering how they can help their aging parents get vaccinated.

When older adults will get vaccinated
According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the approximately 3 million people in phase 1A of the state's vaccine plan - health care workers and long-term care facility residents - are currently being vaccinated. People age 65 and over are also eligible for vaccination as vaccine doses become available in each county. Availability in San Diego remains limited.

These state's vaccination plan now prioritizes vaccine distribution as follows:

Phase 1A - Currently being vaccinated
  • Health care workers
  • Long-term care residents
Phase 1B - Tier 1 - Vaccinating next
  • People age 75 and older - Currently being vaccinated
  • People age 65 and older - Limited availability in San Diego County
  • Those at risk of exposure at work in education, childcare, emergency services, and food and agriculture
Phase 1B - Tier 2
  • Those at risk of exposure at work in transportation and logistics; critical manufacturing; and industrial, commercial, residential and sheltering facilities and services
  • Residents of congregate settings with outbreak risk, such as prisons and sheltering facilities
Phase 1C
  • People age 50 to 64
  • People age 16 to 64 with an underlying health condition or disability
  • Those at risk of exposure at work in water and wastewater; defense; energy; chemical and hazardous materials; communications and IT; financial services; government operations and community-based essential functions
There is currently a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses in the U.S., according to the CDC. San Diego County has not yet been allocated a sufficient number of vaccine doses for those in Phase 1B, including people 65 and over. Area officials expect some doses to be available in the region later this month. Additionally, other brands of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be considered for emergency use in the near future, which will increase supply and allow more people to be vaccinated.

There is no cost for vaccination
The California Department of Managed Healthcare reports that every individual in the state has a right to a COVID-19 vaccine with no out-of-pocket cost. However, incidents of vaccine fraud have been reported across the country, and Medicare is warning older adults about potential scams using false promises of access to the vaccine to obtain personal information and money.

Adult children should remind their parents of the following:
  • If anyone asks them to pay for access to the vaccine, it is a scam.
  • They can't pay to put their name on a list to get the vaccine.
  • They can't pay to get early access to the vaccine.
  • They should not share personal or financial information if someone contacts them by phone, text message or email promising access to the vaccine for a fee.
  • If anyone asks them to share their Medicare number for access to the vaccine, it could be a scam. However, Medicare Advantage HMO Plan members may be asked for their Original Medicare card for vaccination from reliable providers.
Look to primary care providers for vaccine information
Older adults should watch for communication from their primary care providers about receiving their vaccination once doses becomes available in San Diego. Sharp and other local health care providers will be following the State's vaccine distribution plan and San Diegans are encouraged to check the San Diego County COVID-19 vaccine information page to learn of vaccine updates and to schedule an appointment at one of the county's vaccination distribution locations.

"Until the majority of Americans are vaccinated, it is important that all family members, both young and old, continue to follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines," says Dr. Arian. "Wash your hands often, avoid crowds and public indoor spaces, wear a mask, and maintain 6 feet of distance from others from outside your household. This will allow us all to happily spend time with loved ones and return to the activities we enjoy in the near future."

Get COVID-19 information and access to resources from Sharp HealthCare. For more information on Sharp's vaccination program, visit

This story was updated January 21, 2021, to reflect the most accurate COVID-19 vaccine information.

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