Why is a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine needed and who should get it?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for people who meet certain criteria. Rick Scott, MD, explained why this dose is needed and who should get it.
Why is another dose needed?
The delta variant has changed just enough from the original virus to penetrate some of the protection of the vaccine. Also, protection starts to lessen over time and as new strains of the disease appear.
“The vaccine companies are finding that a booster dose administered six months after the initial vaccination can dramatically increase the amount of circulating antibodies,” said Dr. Scott. “This booster dose will provide protection but not complete immunity.”
He said the vaccine is still extremely effective against severe disease, hospitalization and death.
Who can receive a booster shot?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that these three groups SHOULD get the booster shot if they received the second dose of Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago:
- People age 65 and older
- Adults age 50–64 with underlying medical conditions
- Residents age 18 and older in long-term care settings
The CDC also recommends that the following groups MAY get a booster shot, based on individual benefits and risks, if they received the second dose of Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago:
- People age 18–49 with underlying medical conditions
- People age 18–64 at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their job
What’s the difference between a booster shot and a third dose?
A booster shot is for those whose immunity may wane over time or who may need protection against a new virus strain. A COVID-19 booster shot is given at least six months after completing the “primary series” (two doses) of the Pfizer vaccine.
A third dose is for those who are immunocompromised and may not have received sufficient protection from the first two doses. Those age 12 and older who received the Pfizer vaccine are eligible to receive a third dose at least 28 days after their second dose. Those age 18 and older who received the Moderna vaccine may get a third dose 28 days after their second dose. A Pfizer dose should only be given if Moderna is in short supply and cannot be found.
Will a prescription or doctor’s order be needed to get a booster or third dose?
No order or prescription is needed. The person seeking a booster or third dose confirms that he or she is eligible to receive it.
Can I get a booster/third dose and the flu vaccine at the same time?
Yes. The shots are given in separate arms, but you can take both vaccines at the same visit.
Will vaccine companies change the COVID vaccine down the line?
Dr. Scott said that’s a possibility. “Vaccine companies may re-engineer the vaccine to change what protein the vaccine responds to. But for right now, they recommend an additional dose of the vaccine that’s already been tried and proven. We have great data on this vaccine, and we know that it’s protective.”
To find out if you qualify for a booster shot, contact your doctor.
Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine?
Find answers to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, including how to get the shot.