In November 2021, the FDA and CDC approved COVID-19 booster vaccines for all adults 18 and older. Any adult who previously received a full dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines is now eligible for the booster. Johnson & Johnson booster vaccines have also been approved.
The booster vaccine is an important piece in continuing immunity to COVID-19. Over time, the body’s immune response to the first series of vaccines decreases resulting in less protection. An additional dose, or a booster, can help extend a person’s immunity against the virus. It does this by creating a stronger and faster immune response and provides additional coverage against new variants. As immunity fades, the risk for contracting COVID-19 increases. For adults over 65 and people with compromised immune systems, the additional vaccine may be needed to ready the immune system. The booster vaccine formulation is the same as the original COVID-19 vaccines, with the exception of the Moderna booster, which is half the dose of the original vaccines.
People who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should get their booster at least five (Pfizer) or six (Moderna) months after completing the second shot in the initial series. If adults received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they should get their booster at least two months after their initial vaccination. The FDA has also authorized people to “mix and match” their booster vaccine . For example, someone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may get a Pfizer or Moderna booster. This gives people more of a choice when scheduling their boosters and allows pharmacies and doctors’ offices to reach more people. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
Will I Experience Side Effects?
There may be a few side effects after receiving the booster shot. Symptoms are similar to previous vaccines – swelling or redness at the injection site, fever, headaches, muscle pain, or fatigue. These side effects, and other symptoms that may occur, are the body’s natural response to the vaccine. They are a good sign that the immune system is gearing up to fight off the virus.
How Will the Booster Help Me?
Preliminary data from Pfizer suggest that three doses (the original two vaccines plus the booster) increase the level of protection against variant infections. Even though breakthrough cases may still occur, the outcomes to date have been far less severe. This includes fewer hospitalizations and deaths among people who have received a booster.
If you need help scheduling your booster vaccine, you can contact the same place that set up your original vaccines. You can also call your doctor, pharmacy, health department, or even the local grocery store to see if they have available appointments. Remember to take your CDC-issued vaccine card to document your booster.
To further reduce risk of COVID-19, continue to wear your mask in indoor public spaces and around large crowds. You should also continue to wash your hands regularly. Finally, encourage family and friends to receive their vaccines as they are able.