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Should You Get a COVID-19 Booster?

Published on Nov. 24, 2021

COVID-19 third doses and booster shots have been authorized for all three COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson) by the FDA and CDC. But do you need a COVID-19 booster? If so, when? Should you stick to your original vaccine brand? We answer all your questions and more below.

Initial Dose VS Booster: What’s the Difference?

The initial COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series teaches your immune system to build a line of defense against COVID-19 so your body can fight off illness should you get exposed to the virus – in particular, extreme symptoms that could lead to hospitalization. A booster shot is an extra dose that can give you additional protection against COVID-19 and its variants, like the Delta variant.

Are the booster shots different in any way?

The COVID-19 boosters are the same formulation as the original vaccines, with one exception: Moderna’s COVID-19 booster vaccine is a half-dose shot.

Who Should Get a Booster?

woman getting booster shot with mask onNo vaccine is 100 percent effective – though data continues to show that getting your initial series of the COVID-19 vaccine can keep you from becoming severely ill should you get COVID-19. But for some people, the risk of experiencing more extreme symptoms and complications is far greater, and a booster dose can provide extra protection.

Even if you don’t have certain risk factors, a booster can keep your immune system responding strongly to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, since vaccine effectiveness can eventually diminish. This decreased protection is believed to be a combination of both passing time and the highly contagious Delta variant. Whether and when you should get a booster depends largely on which vaccine you originally received:

Jannsen (Johnson & Johnson) Vaccine Recipients

If you initially received the one-dose-only Johnson & Johnson Vaccine, the CDC strongly recommends a second booster shot if you meet the following criteria:

  • It's been two months or more since your vaccine AND
  • You’re 18 years+

Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine recipients

If it's been six months or more since your initial Pfizer or Moderna series, you may be eligible to receive a booster shot. At this time, the CDC has made two distinct recommendations for the booster:

  • Those who can get the booster
  • Those who should get the booster

You are now eligible for a booster shot if you’re 18 years and older. Talk with your primary care provider about your individual risks to determine whether you should get a booster shot.

If you fall into one of the categories below, the CDC says you should get a booster shot:

You're 50 years and older. Your risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 increases with age. This means you could require hospitalization or even intensive care or a ventilator. People ages 85 and older are at highest risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19. If you’re 50 and older, the CDC says you should get a booster shot.  

man getting booster shot with mask onThose who live in long-term care settings. If you live in a long-term care setting – such as a nursing home, adult day care setting, senior housing, assisted living, inpatient substance abuse disorder facility, or residential housing due to a disability – you should get a booster shot, says the CDC. Not sure if you or a loved one fall under this category? Click here for a complete list of long-term care settings. Please note: At this time, you must be 18 years and older to receive a third Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

When should I get a COVID-19 booster vaccine?

If your initial vaccine was Johnson & Johnson: As early as 2 months following your first vaccine.

If your initial vaccine was Pfizer or Moderna: 6 months after your initial vaccine series if you fall into an eligible category above.

I've heard you can "mix & match" vaccines for your booster shot. Is this recommended?

The FDA recently authorized heterologous (aka mix and match) booster vaccines, meaning you can get any vaccine as your booster/third dose shot, regardless of your original vaccine brand. Whether or not you stick to your original vaccine type or prefer to get a different booster is an individual choice. Please note: mix and match vaccines are authorized only for booster/third dose shots (not for your original vaccine dose).

If I don’t get a booster shot, am I still considered fully vaccinated?

Yes, you are still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your one two-dose vaccine series.

Where & How to Get   the COVID-19 Vaccine

Questions? Ask a Nurse!

munson healthcare nurse with headset taking callsDo you still have questions about the COVID-19 third shot or booster? A Munson Healthcare nurse is standing by and ready to help. Call Ask-A-Nurse anytime daily between 7 am – 11 pm to speak with a registered nurse. This service is FREE and no insurance is required.

Ask-A-Nurse   231-935-0951

Did you get your flu shot? Here's why you should…

We don't expect flu season to be mild like last year. In fact, we've already seen some flu cases here at Munson Healthcare. Don't risk a 'twindemic.' Get your flu shot, which is safe to do on the same day as your COVID-19 booster. Learn more about COVID-19 vs the flu here.

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