By Lindsay Clarke

We’ve come a long way in the fight against COVID-19, thanks in large part to vaccines. They’ve helped us to return to work, school, play, and visits with family. COVID-19 still exists and can be serious. However, we have a proven tool to protect from the most severe outcomes of the disease.

As we make our holiday lists and check them twice, this year’s must-have item is an updated COVID-19 vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends one dose of the updated COVID-19 vaccine for everyone six months of age and older.

It is very important to know that new updated vaccines became available that more closely target current variations of COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined these new vaccines to be safe and effective at protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and dying. They can also restore immune system protection against severe COVID-19 that may have decreased over time.

It’s okay to have questions about the vaccines and I’d like to address some common misconceptions. First, the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain live viruses, so it’s impossible to get the disease from the vaccines. COVID-19 cases among vaccinated people may happen, particularly as immunity wanes over time. However, we know that the symptoms in vaccinated people are generally mild compared to unvaccinated people.

Unlike trendy holiday gifts, updated COVID-19 vaccines are widely available and free. For most people, the vaccines are fully covered by their health insurance — whether it’s provided through an employer or a program like Medicare or Medicaid. Anyone who is uninsured or who has insurance that doesn’t fully cover the cost, can get a free vaccine at participating locations through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program at

You can find a location near you by visiting, texting your ZIP code to 438829, or calling toll-free at 1-800-232-0233.

The Alliance for Aging Research is proud to be one of the convening organizations of the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project (, a group of more than 250 organizations working to provide information about the clinical trials process, regulatory review, distribution of, and access to COVID-19 vaccines in a way that promotes equity and trust. Together, we have facilitated important conversations, answered frequently asked questions (, and detailed how to access free vaccines ( Learn more at

As we prepare for holiday gatherings and more time indoors this winter, let’s do what we can to protect each other. Older adults and people with weaker immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, so before you head over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, take a few minutes to roll up your sleeve and get vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s a gift that will keep on giving.

Lindsay Clarke, JD is the Senior Vice President of Health Education and Advocacy at the Alliance for Aging Research, one of the convening organizations of the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.