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COVID 19 Vaccine Booster Shots - Frequently Asked Questions

Are the COVID booster shots safe?
FDA and CDC have determined these booster shots are safe and effective, based on the latest data and evidence, after a thorough, independent, and transparent review process.  However, in December 2021, the CDC stated a preference for mRNA vaccines boosters (Pfizer or Moderna) based on effectiveness and safety.

Who should get a booster?
Everyone ages 12 years and older should get a booster shot 5 months after their second Pfizer does, 6 months after their second Moderna dose or 2 months after their initial Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, especially the following groups:

  • 65 years and older
  • Age 16+ who live in long-term care settings
  • Age 16+ who have underlying medical conditions
  • Age 16+ who work or live in high-risk settings

In August 2021, the FDA authorized a third full dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna) for certain people who are immunocompromised.  The third dose should be given at least 28 days after the second dose.  Additionally, the CDC is recommending that moderately or severely immunocompromised 5–11-year-olds receive an additional primary dose of vaccine 28 days after their second shot. At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for children aged 5-11.

Will booster shots be the same formulation as existing vaccines?
Yes, COVID-19 booster shots are the same formulation as the current COVID-19 vaccines. However, in the case of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, it is half the dose of the vaccine people get for their initial series.

Can people mix and match vaccine brands for their booster shot?
Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received and others, may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots. If you have lost your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record card or don’t have a copy, contact your vaccination provider directly to access your vaccination record. 

Will the booster shot also be free?
COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone at no cost, including the booster shot. Vaccines will continue to be given to all people living in the United States, regardless of insurance or immigration status.

Will providers accept anyone who says they’re eligible to receive a booster shot? Will people need to show a doctor’s note/prescription or other documentation?
Individuals can self-report that they are eligible and receive a booster shot wherever vaccines are offered. This will help ensure there are not additional barriers to access for this vulnerable population receiving their booster shot.

Does this change the definition of “fully vaccinated” for those eligible for booster shots?
Until the official definition changes, people are still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the J&J/Janssen vaccine.  However, since immunity effectiveness appears to drop to about 50% at around 6 months after receiving the second Pfizer or Moderna or the single does of the J & J vaccine, a booster is required to bring efficacy back up to 90%+.

Where will boosters be available?
Boosters are available through most local pharmacies  If you are unable to get the booster at your original vaccine location, vaccines.gov can make the process easier. This free resource provides accurate and up-to-date information about vaccination services in your area. You can also text your zip code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you in the U.S.

Is it safe to co-administer COVID-19 vaccines with other vaccines, like flu? 
Yes, if a patient is eligible, both flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be administered at the same visit, as recommended by CDC and ACIP. In addition to flu vaccine, COVID-19 vaccine can be given with other vaccines as well.