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Why older individuals need the COVID-19 booster shot

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2021, file photo, a certified medical assistant prepares doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. With more than 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines available, U.S. health authorities said they're confident both seniors and other vulnerable Americans seeking booster shots and parents anticipating approval of initial shots for young children will have easy access. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2021, file photo, a certified medical assistant prepares doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. With more than 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines available, U.S. health authorities said they're confident both seniors and other vulnerable Americans seeking booster shots and parents anticipating approval of initial shots for young children will have easy access. (AP Photo/John Locher, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The CDC is now recommending booster shots for certain populations who previously received the Pfizer vaccine. This includes adults who are 65 years and older.

Dr. Ardeshir Hashmi, Section Chief of geriatrics for Cleveland Clinic, said this age group is more vulnerable to the virus.

“People who are older who do get COVID, they have more likelihood of being hospitalized and also increased risk of mortality. 80% of the COVID deaths that we’re seeing are all above the age of 65. So as much protection as you can get to shore up those defenses, the better,” said Hashmi.

He said while the vaccine is effective, immunity can wane over time -- which is why the booster shot is recommended.

It’s important to note that only those who received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine are eligible at the moment. And their last shot had to have been at least six months ago.

Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are not offering booster shots at this time. However, that is expected to change in the near future.

Hashmi encourages everyone to get the booster shot if they qualify, especially with the highly contagious delta variant circulating.

“The delta variant is more contagious and also very, very impactful in terms of mortality and hospitalizations and just severity of illness. The symptoms can be quite profound,” he said.

Hashmi said older individuals should also continue to take other safety precautions, like wearing a mask, regularly washing their hands and practicing social distancing.