Since my last post on booster shots for Covid-19, the CDC issued important updates. Here’s an explanation of the latest recommendations.
What is a Covid vaccine booster?
A Covid vaccine booster is an additional shot beyond the initial regimen. Boosters are not a different formulation of the vaccines. The Moderna booster is half of the original dose. The Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) boosters are the same dose.
Why are boosters being given?
To further enhance immune protection from Covid-19. The additional shot reduces the risk of becoming infected, spreading the virus to others, and developing severe disease.
Some people with weakened immune systems might not have achieved a sufficient immune response to their first two Covid shots. Common examples of this situation are people on medicines to suppress their immune system to treat autoimmune diseases or to prevent rejection of an organ transplant.
But even in people with intact immune systems, immune protection from the vaccine gradually wanes over time. Receiving an additional shot restores and enhances protection. For instance, a randomized trial with the Pfizer vaccine showed that people who received a third shot had a relative vaccine efficacy of 95.6% compared to those who only received 2 shots.
Who should receive a booster?
People with weakened immune systems.
This includes people taking medicines that suppress their immune system to treat cancer or autoimmune conditions or to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ. It also includes people with conditions that impair the immune system such as certain cancers or AIDS. If you have a weakened immune system, you should receive a shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least 28 days after your second shot of Moderna or Pfizer or at least 28 days after your one shot of J&J.
All people who received the J&J vaccine.
Even if you aren’t immunosuppressed, you should receive an additional Covid shot at least 2 months after your J&J vaccine. You can get the Pfizer, Moderna, or a second J&J shot. There is evidence that getting a Pfizer or Moderna shot will provide more protection than a getting second J&J shot. If you are a woman under 50 years old, I recommend you get a Pfizer or Moderna shot rather than a second J&J. This is because in this population the J&J vaccine has been associated with a very rare, but serious clotting disorder.
All people above age 65 who received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
You should receive an additional shot of either Moderna or Pfizer 6 months after your second shot.
People between 18 to 65 years old with chronic health conditions who received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
If you have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, or asthma, you should receive an additional shot of either Moderna or Pfizer 6 months after your second shot.
People between 18-65 years old who live or work in a setting that puts them at a higher risk of getting Covid and received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
This includes people who live in long-term care settings, along with teachers, grocery store workers, and health care workers. If you fall into this category, you can receive an additional shot of either Moderna or Pfizer 6 months after your second shot.
If I received Moderna or Pfizer for my first two shots, for my third should I stick with the same vaccine or switch to another one?
It is acceptable to receive the same vaccine or switch. So if you received Pfizer for your first two shots, you can get a third Pfizer shot or switch to Moderna. Likewise, if you received Moderna for your first two shots, you can get a third Moderna shot or switch to Pfizer. The safety and efficacy of sticking with the same shot versus switching appear to be similar.
Where should we get our Covid booster shot?
It is widely available at many pharmacies. It works best to make an appointment with the pharmacy online. When you sign up for the booster, you can indicate you are in one of the categories that makes you eligible. Some doctor’s offices and public health departments are also offering boosters.
Can I get my flu shot and Covid booster at the same time?
Yes. The CDC states it is safe to do so.