On September 24, the CDC recommended a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in certain populations, including persons 65 and older and those in high risk jobs and institutional settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes.
At the time of publication, these recommendations applied only to those who had previously received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
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This article was written on September 24, 2021 with the latest public health information at the time of publication. Read the most up-to-date article from NCOA on COVID booster shots.
On September 24, 2021, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in certain populations, including older adults and those in high risk jobs and institutional settings. This is an important step forward as our country tries to stay ahead of the coronavirus, including the Delta variant, and keep older Americans and other high risk groups safe by increasing their protection.
In its September 24 release, the CDC recommended COVID-19 booster shots for:
- People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
- People aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions (diabetes, heart disease, obesity and others) should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
- People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks, and
- People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.
Many people who are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot received their initial vaccine early in the vaccination program and will benefit from additional protection. With the highly contagious Delta variant circulating and cases of COVID-19 increasing across many part of the U.S., a booster shot will help strengthen protection against severe disease in those populations who are at high-risk for exposure to COVID-19 or the complications from severe disease.
The CDC will continue to monitor the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure appropriate recommendations to keep all Americans safe. It is expected that the CDC will make additional recommendations for other populations or people who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. As of right now, these booster recommendations apply only to those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine initially, not those who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
I am immunocompromised? What about me?
In mid-August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized the use of an additional dose or booster of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna for individuals with certain conditions that weaken or compromise their immune systems. The reason that this booster dose is needed is that these individuals do not get enough protection against COVID-19 from the recommended two doses of the vaccines.
Recent research shows that up to one-half of immunocompromised people who didn’t develop antibodies or immune protection after two doses do get some level of protection after a third dose.
However, the FDA stressed (at the time of publication) that even after a third dose, people who are immunocompromised will still need to wear masks indoors, stay six feet apart from others, and avoid crowds. Also family members and other close contacts should be fully vaccinated to protect these persons.
The FDA's authorization (at the time of publication) does not apply to the one dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, which has been used less frequently in the U.S. The FDA is still exploring updating its authorization about the Johnson & Johnson to determine if boosters will be necessary for immunocompromised individuals.
What are the requirements for getting a COVID booster shot?
As of right now, an honor type system will be used for those who meet the categories listed above. No prescription or other kinds of documentation from doctors showing you have are immunocompromised will be required for people to get the third shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. If you meet one of the categories above, you should bring your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card with you when requesting the vaccine at a pharmacy, clinic, or other vaccination site. This is the card you received when you got your first shot and indicates the type of vaccine you received and dates of the first and second shots.
If you are uncertain if you are eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine, check with your primary care physician or other doctor if you are being treated for cancer or other conditions that compromise your immune system.
Will COVID booster shots be widely available for other persons?
The CDC is also weighing the scientific evidence on the use of boosters or a third shot for people whose immunity might have decreased since they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Older adults are of particular concern because 74% of breakthrough COVID-19 cases are among those 65 and over. Breakthrough cases are expected because no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people. The boosters may provide added protection for those at greatest risk for breakthrough severe infections, hospitalizations and death.
Additional information about the COVID-19 booster shots can be found on the CDC’s website.