COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters – What You Need to Know

* Updated 4/22/22

covid-19 boosters

Why should I get the booster?

The COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States remain highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. However, the vaccines’ protection against asymptomatic, mild, and moderate COVID-19 disease may decrease over time, which is why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination.

According to the agency, you are up to date if you have “received all recommended doses in the primary series and one booster when eligible.” For most over the age of 12, that means two doses in your primary series followed by a booster. For those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised over the age of 12, that means three doses in your primary series followed by a booster. While the agency also recommends three primary doses for 5-11-year-olds who are immunocompromised, it does not recommend a booster.

A single-dose vaccine booster shot can:

  • strengthen your protection against catching COVID-19
  • increase your immune response to the virus
  • enhance protection against mild and moderate COVID-19 disease
  • enhance protection against the Delta variant
  • help reduce the spread of the virus

Who should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?

Teens ages 12–17: If you received your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at least five months ago, you should now get a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster.

Adults ages 18 and older: If you received your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines at least five months ago, you should now get the booster. You can get a booster from Moderna or Pfizer. If you received the single-dose Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at least two months ago, you should now get the booster.

Should I get a second booster shot?

In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a second booster for people who are older than 50. The CDC followed this decision by announcing that this age group can get a second booster if they choose, however, this is not a recommendation and is not necessary to stay up to date with your vaccinations. If you do choose to get a second booster, you should wait at least four months after your first booster.

When should I get a booster?

If it’s the first booster – five months after the second in the Pfizer or Moderna series or after the single J&J vaccine. If it’s the second booster, you should wait at least five months after your first booster.

According to the latest CDC recommendations, “COVID-19 vaccination does not need to be delayed following receipt of monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma.”

Does my booster need to come from the same pharmaceutical company as my initial COVID-19 vaccine?

If you're age 18 or older, you can “mix and match” manufacturers of all FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines and single-dose booster shots. In the U.S., booster shots are available from Pfizer and Moderna.

The CDC recently updated the guidelines regarding the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. This vaccine has proven less effective than the mRNA vaccines against new variants of COVID-19. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine provides protection for less time than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. While receiving any vaccine is better than being unvaccinated, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferred. You may get Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in some situations.

When you were initially vaccinated against COVID-19, you should have been provided a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card that states which vaccine you received and the date(s) you received each dose. Bring this card to your booster shot appointment.

What are the risks of getting the booster shot?

The risks of and reactions to the COVID-19 booster shots appear to be the same as those from the initial vaccines. The vaccines and their respective booster shots are the same formulas. The Moderna booster, however, is half the dose of the initial Moderna vaccine.

If I don’t get the booster, am I still protected against COVID?

The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death from the virus. However, the protection from asymptomatic COVID infection and mild to moderate symptoms lowers over time. If you don’t get a COVID-19 vaccine booster, you are still considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine.

Can I get other vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccine booster at the same time?

Yes, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot and other vaccines such as meningitis, flu, HSV, and shingles at the same time. Possible side effects from the COVID vaccine/booster are typically the same when received alone or with other vaccines.

Written by Dana Kantrowitz and Natasha Bright, contributing writers for UMiami Health News. Medically reviewed by  Roy E. Weiss, M.D, PhD., Chief Medical Officer for COVID-19 at the University of Miami.



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