Gregory Griggs gives the "thumbs up" after getting his booster at Mary's Center (Courtesy of Mary's Center)
Gregory Griggs gives the "thumbs up" after getting his booster at Mary's Center (Courtesy of Mary's Center)

As we age, we need to take extra care to stay healthy and prevent illness since our bodies are not as good at fighting off and recovering from infection. COVID-19 has been a prime example of this, with older adults (especially 65+) at much higher risk of severe illness and even death if they contract the disease.

We have all added new practices to our health and wellness routines since the pandemic – washing hands frequently, wearing masks, isolating when feeling ill, testing ourselves, getting vaccinated, etc. – and it is especially important for older adults to keep up with the latest guidance.

Here are the best ways you can protect yourself from COVID-19 right now as an older adult:

Get Your Second Booster Shot

The COVID-19 vaccines have been incredibly effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization, and booster shots are essential to keep up your immunity. These additional doses of the vaccine are safe, and most older adults have very mild side effects. With new variants of COVID-19 continuing to pop up, staying up to date on your boosters is crucial to your health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends a second booster shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for people over 50 and certain people with compromised immune systems. You should get this booster at least four months after receiving your initial booster dose. The CDC also recommends that people who originally received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a second booster.

We welcome you to come get your booster shot at Mary’s Center, and we have both walk-ins and appointments available on our website at www.maryscenter.org/vaccine.

Test Yourself When Sick

While the main purpose of vaccines is preventing serious illness, mild cases of COVID-19 can still occur. This time of year, with seasons changing and spring allergies arising, it can be especially hard to tell the difference between allergies, cold symptoms, and COVID-19 symptoms.

Older adults should take a rapid test if you develop a cough, congestion, sore throat, fever, etc. You can stock up on rapid tests at the free distribution sites in Washington, DC, including our two Senior Wellness Centers (Bernice Fonteneau in Ward 1 and Hattie Holmes in Ward 4), as well as Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.

Taking these tests correctly is important for the most accurate results. Visit our website at www.maryscenter.org/vaccine to watch instructional videos on how to take the two most commonly distributed at-home tests, iHealth and BinaxNOW.

A positive result on a rapid test is very reliable, though these tests sometimes produce false negatives. If you get a negative result on a rapid test but you are symptomatic and you had a COVID-19 exposure or you are at higher risk, you should also get a PCR test to be sure.

Get Treatment If You Test Positive

If you test positive for COVID-19, we now have treatments to ensure your symptoms do not become severe. This is especially important if you are over 65 and also have a chronic illness (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes), as the treatment could save your life.

Mary’s Center is now offering two medicines to help treat mild or moderate COVID-19 cases: Molnupiravir and PAXLOVID. These medicines are for adults who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are not hospitalized. Both medications have been approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Let your provider know if you have a confirmed case of COVID-19, and they will discuss with you if Molnupiravir or PAXLOVID are right for you.

Mary’s Center is always here if you have questions about how to best take care of yourself as an older adult. Call us at 844-796-2797 today to schedule an appointment.

Mary’s Center is a community health center serving 60,000 people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds in the Washington, DC metro area for over 30 years. With an integrated model of health care, education, and social services, Mary’s Center offers each participant individualized care on the path toward good health, stability, and economic independence. For more information, visit www.maryscenter.org.

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