FAQ About COVID-19 Boosters in the US

Unvaccinated or only the primary series received adults are more likely to be hospitalized than those who are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 boosters can help increase the protection which might fade away after the previous vaccination. Find out all relevant information about COVID-19 Boosters in the US in this article below.

BoosterDosesTiming (how long shot lasts)Condition (age, health condition, gender, pregnancy)
Pfizer bivalent1 dose at least 2 months after last COVID-19 vaccineAlthough antibodies wane in about 4 months, T cells remain effectiveRecommended by CDC for all people ages 6 months and older
Moderna bivalent1 dose at least 2 months after last COVID-19 vaccineAlthough antibodies wane in about 4 months, T cells remain effectiveRecommended by CDC for all people ages 6 months and older

What is a booster shot?

A booster vaccine triggers a fresh batch of antibodies by exposing your body to the mRNA which tells your cells to produce more spike protein. The booster updates the immune system to defend against infection.

Is the third dose of vaccine a booster?

The third dose of the vaccine is a booster that contains the mRNA to make both the original SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and the BA.4/BA.5 spike protein. (The CDC also recommends a third dose in the primary series for those who have weakened immune systems.)

Who can get the new boosters?

Children and teens ages 6 months to 17 years can get either the mRNA vaccines or the protein subunit vaccine by Novavax. Adults 18 years and older can get either of the mRNA vaccines, Novavax, or Janssen.

People who are at high risk for serious COVID-19 illness—the elderly, those with a solid organ transplant, cancer, or immunocompromised status—should stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccination. Your doctor may recommend a third primary dose and the bivalent booster if you have a weakened immune system.

While the vaccines are recommended for both sexes, younger males ages 12 through 39 are at elevated risk for a rare serious adverse event (myocarditis) which typically occurs within 7 days of vaccination.

Can I get my booster while pregnant?

The CDC recommends that women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, including boosters. While there is a great deal of evidence that COVID-19 vaccination is safe during pregnancy, and that pregnancy increases the risk of serious illness with COVID-19, mRNA vaccination does appear to cause a small (one day) increase in cycle length, but no change in menses length. The change in cycle length was greater among women who received both doses in a single cycle and returned to baseline within about two months. A small study that evaluated the effect of both SARS-CoV-2 infection and mRNA vaccination on ovarian function did not find an effect.

Why are we allowed to mix and match vaccines for booster shots?

The FDA allows people to get a different brand of vaccine for their booster because safety data indicates it is safe to mix and match.

From an immunological perspective, when the body sees a slightly different antigen, it may respond more vigorously. This may mean that getting a different brand may boost the antibody level in the blood.

However, mixing vaccines may also mean that you have more side effects than the booster. The CDC reviewed over 721,000 V-Safe reports from adults who received a booster.

Those who received Pfizer-BioNTech as their primary series and Moderna as their booster were more likely to have any systemic side effects (58.4% for Pfizer-Pfizer vs 82.9% for Pfizer-Moderna).

Whether you should mix and match your booster is a personal decision you should make with the guidance of a trusted healthcare professional.

Are booster shots safe?

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) reviewed the laboratory and human trials data and found no concerning safety signals for the booster shots.

However, the trials were small and additional safety data is being collected as the boosters are given to people around the world.

What are the risks of getting booster shots?

The risks are similar to those after the second dose of the primary series — injection site pain and swelling, and systemic side effects such as fever, muscle aches, headache, and fatigue. Myocarditis remains a concern for male adolescents and young adults following the mRNA boosters, but updated data on the incidence of this adverse event following the new bivalent booster is not yet available.

What does “fully vaccinated” mean today?

Fully vaccinated means you have received the primary series AND the bivalent (or “updated”) booster. However, the CDC no longer distinguishes between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals when making quarantine and isolation recommendations.

How many COVID-19 vaccines do I need when going abroad?

Many countries have lifted their travel restrictions and no longer require COVID-19 paperwork or quarantine. It is important to check your country-specific destinations, though, because requirements can change. Even if you do not need COVID vaccination, other travel vaccines may be recommended.

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