With cases of the Omicron variant surging around the country, everyone who is eligible should get a COVID-19 booster dose, if they haven't already. Research shows that getting a booster can strengthen your protection against Omicron and other COVID-19 variants."Efficacy of vaccine antibodies might decrease around six to eight months, and while they are still highly effective against hospitalization, getting a booster can increase your protection against COVID-19 and the variants," says Dennis Cunningham, M.D., medical director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health.
Booster Eligibility Guidelines
Additional doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are safe and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Not sure whether you are eligible to get one? Follow the CDC’s below guidelines.
- Ages 12+ who were vaccinated with Pfizer at least five months ago can receive a booster shot.
- Ages 18+ who were vaccinated with Moderna at least five months ago can receive a booster shot.
- Ages 18+ who were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson at least two months ago can receive a booster shot. (If possible, the CDC recommends getting an mRNA vaccine--Pfizer or Moderna--as your booster to strengthen your protection.)
“Side effects of the booster dose are very similar to what you see with your initial doses,” says Dr. Cunningham. “Injection-site pain, fever, chills, and headache may be common, but they should go away within 24 to 48 hours.”
Mixing Booster Doses
The booster doses are the same formulations as the initial doses, says Dr. Cunningham, but in the case of Moderna, the dosage is half of what people receive for their first two doses.
While you should get the same vaccine for your first two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, it is safe to mix booster doses. This means that no matter what vaccine you were fully vaccinated with, you can receive the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine for your booster dose. (It’s important to note, though, that anyone under 18 years old can only receive the Pfizer vaccine, as it is currently the only vaccine authorized for children.)
Getting A Booster Shot If You Are Immunocompromised
Those who are immunocompromised are especially encouraged to get a booster shot, although the guidelines are a little different. Before getting a booster shot, anyone who is immunocompromised and received Pfizer or Moderna for their first two shots should receive a third, full vaccine dose. According to the CDC:
- Ages 5+ who are immunocompromised and fully vaccinated with Pfizer can receive a third, full dose 28 days after their second shot. Five months after this third shot, ages 12+ can receive a booster shot. (Booster shots are currently only authorized for ages 12+. If you're under 18, you can only receive Pfizer for your booster shot.)
- Ages 18+ who are immunocompromised and fully vaccinated with Moderna can receive a third dose 28 days after their second shot. Five months after this third dose, you can receive a booster of any available vaccine.
- Ages 18+ who are immunocompromised and vaccinated at least two months ago with Johnson & Johnson can receive a booster of any available vaccine.
“Two to four weeks after you’ve received your booster shot is when you will have full protection, so I recommend that everyone get their booster shot as soon as they can,” says Dr. Cunningham. “It’s not going to hurt you—it can only help boost your protection and the protection of those around you.”
For more answers to questions about COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses, visit henryford.com/coronavirus/vaccine-faqs.
Dr. Dennis Cunningham is the medical director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health.