Pharmacists Explain: Should You Get a COVID-19 Booster Shot or Additional Dose?
What is a booster shot and why do I need one?
A booster shot is a dose of vaccine given after the original vaccine series is complete to give you ongoing protection against disease. The booster reminds the body what the virus looks like and ‘boosts’ the immune system.
The goal of the booster is to help maintain a level of immunity for a longer period. There are many vaccines that require booster shots such as those that prevent tetanus, pertussis, and meningitis. Booster shots are necessary with the COVID-19 vaccines because studies show protection against COVID-19 may decrease over time, especially in certain people.
Who is eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot?
Recently, an emergency use authorization (EUA) was approved by the FDA for a bivalent form of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines which covers both circulating strains of COVID-19 (the original and the omicron). It is currently recommended that people ages 5 years or older receive a bivalent booster dose either 2 months after their final primary COVID-19 vaccine series dose or after their monovalent booster dose.
A Novavax COVID-19 booster is available for those who are unable or unwilling to receive a COVID-19 bivalent booster and you are:
- 18 years of age or older
- Completed a COVID-19 vaccine primary series at least 6 months ago
- You have not gotten any other booster dose
Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines are recommended over J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine due to safety concerns surrounding the J&J/Janssen vaccine. However, the J&J/Janssen may be considered in situations where individuals had an allergy to one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) or who may not have access to any of the other vaccines and would remain unvaccinated AND are aware and desire to proceed with J&J/Janssen despite the safety concerns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a quiz to help you decide when to get a booster.
Should I wait to get a booster shot?
No. The CDC has provided information on who is eligible for the COVID-19 booster. If you are eligible, get the shot as soon as possible to continue protection against COVID-19 and its variants.
Are booster shots safe?
Yes. Boosters have proven to be safe. The booster doses contain the same amount of vaccine as the original series. Ongoing research and monitoring will continue to test the efficacy and safety of the booster dose.
What is the difference between a booster shot and an additional dose of the vaccine?
An additional dose of the two-shot COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) is recommended for people who have weakened immune systems due to either medications or health conditions. Studies show that people with weakened immune systems may not have a strong enough response to the first two doses to be protected against the virus.
An additional dose is recommended at least 28 days after the second dose of the original vaccine (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). The level of protection against the virus may not be the same in some immunocompromised individuals as the general population, even after an additional dose.
Can my pharmacist help?
Pharmacists can answer your questions COVID-19 vaccines as well as administer COVID-19 vaccines and other immunizations like your yearly flu shot.
With so much information about the COVID-19 vaccines and now additional doses and boosters, pharmacists are the medication experts and an easy source of important information. If you have any questions about whether or not you qualify for an additional dose or booster, speak with a pharmacist today.