Frequently Asked Questions - COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters for Immunocompromised People

What is the difference between a third dose and a booster?

For people who are immunocompromised, it is called an additional or third dose. People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised may not have built enough protection after the first two shots. The third shot dose is intended to improve your immune response.

For people who are not immunocompromised, it is called a booster. It is intended to raise (“boost”) the level of protection when it is has decreased over time so that it will be stronger and last longer.

I am immunocompromised – are there special instructions for me when it comes to the updated boosters?

If you are immunocompromised, you can receive the new booster 2 months after your last vaccine dose. Your last dose can be a primary dose or a booster.

Is the third dose the same as the first two/original dose?

Yes, for immunocompromised people the third dose of Moderna or Pfizer, or the second dose of any vaccine for those who received Johnson & Johnson, is the same as the original dose(s).

What vaccine should I get for my additional dose and boosters if I originally had Johnson & Johnson and I’m immunocompromised?

Pfizer and Moderna are recommended. However, Johnson & Johnson can be considered in some situations. Johnson & Johnson cannot be used as a 2nd booster dose.

Can I “mix and match” vaccines and get a different kind for my third dose?

For people who are immunocompromised, a third dose of the same mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) should be used. It is not recommended you mix vaccines. If you are immunocompromised and received Johnson & Johnson, you can mix vaccines.

How old does my child need to be to receive a booster?

Children under age 5 are not eligible for a booster.

Will another dose increase my protection against COVID-19?

Vaccine studies have found that sometimes immunocompromised people don’t build the same level of immunity after vaccination as non-immunocompromised people. If you are immunocompromised, you will benefit from an additional vaccine dose and a booster to ensure adequate protection against COVID-19.

Why do I need another vaccine dose?

If you are immunocompromised, you cannot fight infections and diseases as well as other people. In addition, your body’s ability to produce protective antibodies after being vaccinated may not be as strong. In studies, some immunocompromised people who had low or no protection after the first two doses of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) had an improved response after an additional dose of the same vaccine. Many people who had low or no antibodies developed protective antibodies after receiving the third shot.

How does being immunocompromised affect me when it comes to COVID-19?

People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are more at risk of serious, prolonged illness.

What are the risks of getting an additional dose?

The safety profile is the same as for the first and second vaccine doses. Studies with immunocompromised people did not show severe adverse effects after a third dose.

Side effects reported after the third mRNA dose were similar to that of the two-dose series: fatigue and pain at injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and overall, most symptoms were mild to moderate.

Will boosters improve my protection against COVID-19 variants? 

Yes, boosters will improve your protection against the COVID-19 virus. Boosters will also reduce the chances of severe illness, hospitalization or death if you get COVID-19.

Where can immunocompromised people get more information about COVID-19 vaccines?

Please visit this CDC web page for more information.

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