If you’ve received the full COVID-19 vaccine (2 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, 2 doses of Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson), you may be wondering whether you need or should get a booster shot. The answer is yes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend that fully vaccinated individuals age 12 and older get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for the best protection.
COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the Delta variant and Omicron variant. However, public health experts have seen some reduced protection after intial vaccination, especially among certain populations, against mild and moderate disease. Data is showing that boosters increase vaccine effectiveness. Vaccine boosters are actually common ways to improve protection and especially support people at the highest risk for COVID-19 complications.
Path to Improved Health
What does fully vaccinated mean?
You are considered fully vaccinated if you received 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 2 doses of the Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
What’s the difference between a booster shot and an additional dose?
An “additional dose” refers to people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised receiving an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna). This is because they may not have received adequate protection from their initial 2-dose vaccine series. In January 2022, the CDC authorized a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for children 5-11 who have immunosupression.
A “booster dose” is a supplemental vaccine dose given to people when the immune response to a primary vaccine series was adequate but is likely to have decreased over time.
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 booster shot?
The CDC strongly recommends the everyone over age 12 get a COVID-19 vaccine booster.
People 18 year and older can get a booster dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines, even if its different from the original vaccine they received. People 12 to 17 years old must get the Pfizer vaccine. Only the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for this age group.
If you received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, you are eligible for a booster 5 months after completion of the second dose. If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are eligible for a booster 2 months after the initial vaccine dose.
Remember to bring your COVID-19 vaccination card to your booster appointment. It will be updated with your booster information and the date of the booster.
Things to Consider
There are many questions surrounding the “mixing and matching” of COVID-19 vaccines when getting a booster. The CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say it’s safe to get a different booster. For example, if you initially received the Johnson & Johnson shot, you can receive Pfizer or Moderna for a booster.
In late 2021, the CDC said that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferred over Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for individuals aged 18 and older. This is based on safety data related to cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which is a rare syndrome that causes blood clots and low platelet counts.
The most important decision is to get a booster.
While the CDC serves as a national public health resource, it’s important to check with your local state or county health department. Eligibility guidelines may vary by department based on the percentage of people vaccinated in your area or by surges in cases.
A COVID-19 booster protects you from serious infection, hospitalization, and death, and also slows the spread of the virus in your community, along with other protective measures like masking and physical distancing.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Is a COVID-19 booster required?
- How does a booster shot work?
- Should my children get a booster dose?
- Will I feel sick after receiving a booster?
- Will I have to show my COVID-19 vaccination card?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.