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16 February 2024

Sandwich Generation: Navigating Respiratory Virus Season as a Two-Time Caregiver

By Christine Shaw, VP, Portfolio Head, Respiratory Vaccines
National Caregivers Day

For the more than half of Americans in their 40s who simultaneously care for their aging parents while raising their own children, every day can bring a unique set of stressors.¹ This “sandwich generation” is constantly pulled in various directions, balancing work responsibilities, the needs of the parents and children they care for, and importantly, taking care of themselves. With recent surges in COVID-19 hospitalizations,² a COVID-19 diagnosis can complicate this delicate dance, disrupting the thoughtful balances one creates when coordinating care.

It is important for everyone to help protect themselves against COVID-19, but the stakes are particularly high for the sandwich generation and the ongoing balancing of caregiving and self-care. In honor of National Caregiver Day, arm yourself with the facts on the benefits of vaccination for not only yourself, but for the vulnerable populations you care for.

The Ongoing Threat of COVID-19 for Children & Older Adults

As a sandwich generation caregiver, you are often responsible for guiding the health decisions of your children and aging parents, two groups who may be at-risk of serious or long-term consequences from a COVID-19 infection. Just like scheduling their dentist appointments or ensuring they maintain a balanced diet, seasonal vaccination is a critical part of any healthy lifestyle. The virus that causes COVID-19 has mutated over time, leading to new variants.³ Similar to why you should get an updated flu shot each year to provide protection against the relevant strains of the virus, the updated COVID vaccines are designed to help ensure that one’s immune system is prepared to fight off potential infections from the latest variants – a level of protection that is important at any age.⁴

We talk a lot about the effect of age on the severity of a COVID-19 infection, so the impact of COVID-19 on children can be surprising. Since the pandemic began, children have represented nearly 20% of all reported COVID-19 cases,⁵ and just in the last few months, they experienced concerning rates of COVID-19-related hospitalization.⁶ And, while not as common as adults, children can still be impacted by post COVID-19 conditions – about 1 in 4 children with documented COVID-19 experience persistent symptoms for 4-12 weeks post-infection.⁷ While certain medical conditions might increase a child’s risk, such as asthma, obesity and genetic conditions,⁸ a study of children ages 5-11 hospitalized for COVID-19 during the Omicron-predominant period found 87% were unvaccinated and 30% had no underlying medical conditions.⁹ Everyone ages 6 months and older is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, yet vaccination coverage among children and adolescents is lower than in older groups.¹⁰ Co-administration of the COVID-19 and flu vaccine is a common clinical practice for children and is a safe and simple to stay protected against both viruses.¹¹ Plus, getting both shots saves an extra trip to the doctor’s office or pharmacy – music to a parent’s ears.

On the other hand, the threat of COVID-19 for those over 65 years old is well documented – we know age is a major factor for COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths.¹² According to the CDC, adults ages 65 and older made up 63% of all COVID-19 associated hospitalization between January and August 2023.¹³ From January 2020 to December 2021, the WHO reported that 80% of COVID-19-related deaths have occurred in people over 60 years of age.¹⁴ Getting an updated COVID-19 vaccine is a crucial part of helping your aging parents stay healthy this winter.

Don’t Forget About Number One – Yourself!

As a sandwich generation caregiver, you may often overlook your own needs. Protecting yourself not only helps protect others, but also reduces COVID-19’s impact on your daily caregiving duties. You may not be worried about the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, but post-COVID complications such as long COVID is a real threat. One in five American adults reported experiencing long COVID, or the continuation or development of new symptoms three months after the initial infection.¹⁵ A study conducted by the CDC found that over 26% of adults with long COVID reported significant limitations in day-to-day activities.¹⁶ Staying up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccine can help protect you from long COVID – research suggests there is a strong association between vaccination and a reduced risk of long COVID.¹⁷

It's not too late to get your updated COVID-19 vaccine. Add a vaccine appointment to your caregiving to-do list for yourself and your loved ones.To find a COVID-19 or flu vaccine near you, visit

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