Questions and answers about booster injections: what you need to know
What professions are eligible for boosters?
The FDA has authorized booster doses for workers whose work puts them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. So far, this includes healthcare workers, teachers and daycare staff, grocers, transit and postal workers, and people who work in homeless shelters or prisons.
How and when can I find a booster if I qualify?
Health departments, pharmacies and doctors’ offices will distribute the reminders in the same way they gave the first and second doses. Call ahead for times and bring your vaccination card. Proof of an underlying medical condition will not be required, but you may want to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
You can find more information on your state’s health department website or on pharmacy websites. People who are immunocompromised can also discuss the best way to get a third injection with their doctor. Since the FDA fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a two-dose regimen last month, doctors have had a great deal of latitude in prescribing a third dose to people they feel they need.
What if it has been less than six months since I was vaccinated?
While severely immunocompromised people may receive a third injection earlier, all other eligible people should wait at least six months after their second injection. In addition to a lack of safety data, receiving a booster too early is probably a wasted dose and may not increase your antibodies significantly.
The FDA’s Vaccine Advisory Committee recommended that people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine receive a booster shot two months after their first dose.
What to know about Covid-19 booster injections
The FDA has cleared booster shots for a select group of people who received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months previously. This group includes: vaccinated people who are 65 years of age or older or living in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk for severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical problem; healthcare workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with weakened immune systems may receive a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second injection.
The CDC said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and some disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.
The FDA has cleared the boosters for workers whose work puts them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says this group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agricultural workers; manufacturing workers; correctional workers; workers in the US postal service; public transport workers; employees of grocery stores.
It is not recommended. For now, recipients of the Pfizer vaccine are advised to be vaccinated by Pfizer, and recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson must wait until booster doses from these manufacturers are approved.
Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be given regardless of the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy websites allow people to schedule a flu shot along with a booster dose.
Will a third dose ever be available to the general public?
While the Biden administration has said it supports booster shots for anyone who is eight months after vaccination, FDA scientists have rejected the plan. But the recommendation could change in the coming weeks or months as more data becomes available on the durability of vaccine antibodies over time. The good news is that the consensus within the scientific community is that all vaccines continue to offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19.
What are the side effects of booster injections?
Although data is limited, so far the reactions reported after the third dose of Pfizer or Moderna mRNA were similar to those from the two-dose series. Fatigue and pain at the injection site were the most frequently reported side effects, and overall most symptoms were mild to moderate, the CDC said. An investigation in Israel, where booster shots are given, found that 88% of Pfizer vaccinees said that within days of the third dose, they felt “similar or better” to what they felt after the second injection. About a third of those surveyed reported some side effects, the most common being pain at the injection site, and 1 percent said they sought medical treatment because of one or more side effects.