What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Boosters

Table of Contents

Introduction

What is a COVID-19 booster shot?

Why do I need a booster if the vaccinations are so effective against COVID-19 to begin with?

Who is eligible for COVID-19 booster shots?

Mix and match boosters

Where can I get a booster shot?

What is the difference between boosters and “additional shots” or “third shots”?

Introduction

Recently, the CDC and FDA approved the use of booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines. On this page, you can find answers to your common questions about boosters and find out whether you are eligible to receive one.

What is a COVID-19 booster shot?

A COVID-19 booster shot is an additional vaccine shot given to a fully vaccinated person once their immunity to COVID-19 starts to wane. The booster shot is used to “boost” their body’s immunity to COVID-19 back to the high levels it was after originally being fully vaccinated. To be clear, while studies have shown that COVID-19 immunity starts to wane months after vaccination, those who are fully vaccinated are still well protected against the most-severe cases of COVID-19.

Why do I need a booster if the vaccinations are so effective against COVID-19 to begin with?

Most people who are fully vaccinated still have great protection against the most-severe cases of COVID-19. Studies have shown that COVID-19 immunity starts to wane months after vaccination, which is why boosters are recommended for groups at higher risk of severe illness or after significant time has passed since first getting vaccinated.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 booster shots?

Currently, the CDC has made the following groups eligible for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots:

  • People who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at least 6 months ago from their second dose and are 18 years or older
  • People who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine 2 months ago and are 18 years or older 

Mix and Match Boosters

AS of October 20, 2021, the FDA authorized the  mixing of booster shots to allow people to take any of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson) regardless of which shot they were originally vaccinated with. For example, if you received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can now receive the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as your booster.

Where Can I Get a Booster Shot?

You can find a vaccine site near you and book an appointment at vaccines.gov, text your zip code to 438829,  call 1-800-232-0233 or talk to your doctor.

What is the difference between boosters and “additional shots” or “third shots”?

In addition to approving the use of COVID-19 booster shots, the CDC also approved “additional shots” which are different from booster shots. This is understandably a bit confusing, since a booster shot is also a shot you are taking in addition to your original vaccination.

For many people who are immunosuppressed, it takes more than two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines to develop an immune response that will protect against COVID-19. For people who are immunocompromised, studies have found that an additional shot during the original vaccination period can offer much greater protection against COVID-19.

“Currently, CDC is recommending that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive an additional dose. This includes people who have

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

People should talk to their healthcare provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.”

This page will be updated on an ongoing basis to reflect the most updated information on vaccine booster shots as these developments unfold.