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COVID-19 Booster Shots: Top Questions Answered

September 24, 2021-The FDA and CDC announced this week that certain groups of people at high risk for severe COVID-19 infection can now receive a booster dose of Pfizer vaccine.

You and your friends and family may have questions: Am I eligible? Where do I go to get a booster? Do I have to prove that I am at high risk? Am I still fully vaccinated if I qualify for a booster and do not receive one?

We outline the most common questions about the updated Pfizer Booster Guidelines.

What are boosters?

A booster is an extra dose of vaccine to give you more protection against a disease; in this case, COVID-19.

“Basically, boosters are exactly what the word says,” according to Anita Gupta, DO, an assistant professor of assistant professor of critical care and pain medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

‘With boosters, people can get an increased immune response.

The extra dose of vaccine is particularly important for the elderly and people with a weakened immune system due to conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or obesity, due to the discovery of new variants, says Gupta.

‘There is a possibility that the immune response of the two-dose vaccine series is not adequate, especially in individuals who are particularly vulnerable.

‘The aim is therefore to help the individuals when they may be dealing with new variants and to ensure that they do not have a weak immune response when faced with it.

Who is eligible for the Pfizer booster?

Certain groups of people who have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine for six months or more can now receive a single booster dose of Pfizer, according to to update the updated FDA approval guidelines for emergencies.

You cannot receive the Pfizer booster if you have received other COVID-19 vaccines, such as Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

You can get a Pfizer booster if you have received the Pfizer vaccine and are part of one of these groups:

  1. 65 years or older
  2. 18 years of age or older and at high risk for severe COVID-19
  3. If you work or live in a situation that puts you at high risk for severe COVID-19. For example, health care workers, teachers and people in prisons and homeless shelters.

Go here to see if you or someone you know is at high risk for severe COVID-19.

When can I expect to receive a Pfizer booster if I get another COVID-19 vaccine, such as Moderna or Johnson & Johnson?

The exact date is unknown, but it should not take too long, as Moderna recently submitted data to the FDA, and Johnson & Johnson will follow soon.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, said Friday that boosters approved for everyone, including those who originally received the Moderna or J&J vaccine, have a high priority.

William Schaffner, MD, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, agrees that this should happen soon.

“I hope to have information on both vaccines within the next month to 6 weeks,” he says. ‘It will be one after the other. Each acted separately. ”

“I know it leads to some confusion, but that’s how you should do it, because all the data is not compiled at exactly the same time.”

Just the fact that Pfizer boosters are now available to certain high-risk groups is a big sign that boosters for other vaccines against COVID-19 are not far behind, says Eric Ascher, DO, a GP at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“For me, this is a strong indication that it will soon be made available to the rest of the population,” he says.

Where should I get my Pfizer booster and how much will it cost?

You can get your boost at pharmacies, your doctors’ office, health departments, occupational clinics and federal programs, according to to the CDC.

‘More than 70% of current COVID-19 administration’ occurs in pharmacies, the CDC state.

Enhancers for all COVID-19 vaccines are completely free.

“All COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses, are provided free of charge to the U.S. population,” the CDC said. said Thursday.

Do I have to provide proof that I received the Pfizer vaccine before receiving a Pfizer booster?

The short answer is probably no. But for your safety, it’s important to follow FDA guidelines and only get a Pfizer booster if you have received the Pfizer vaccine, says Schaffner.

‘It has already opened the door for people who have not been vaccinated with Pfizer, who are very eager to get a booster, to get a booster. It is not recommended, ”he says.

‘We always warn people that, although it is unlikely, you would experience an adverse event, but if you do it outside of the established recommendation, your insurance does not cover it.

Do we have to provide evidence of a high risk due to an underlying medical condition or that we live or work in a place that we are at high risk for severe COVID-19, or that we are over 65?


It will work on the honor system, Schaffner says. ‘In other words, you come up and say that you are eligible, you will not be asked about it, and the location, whether it is a pharmacy or vaccination site, will give you the boost.

‘It’s the same procedure we’re already applying to people who are immunocompromised. All they have to do is show up and say, ‘I’m in an immunocompromised group,’ and they’ll get the third dose.

Are boosters a full or half dose of Pfizer vaccine?

A Pfizer booster according to the FDA is a full dose of Pfizer vaccine.

But it may not be the same for other COVID-19 vaccine enhancers.

‘The FDA is considering, for example, whether a lower dose of Moderna COVID-19 should be granted vaccine enhancer than the dose given in the first two shots, ”says Gupta.

But you should not depend too much on the dose of your evil shot.

“It’s based on the composition of the vaccine and does not change the level of protection,” says Ascher.

Am I still considered fully vaccinated if I have been fully vaccinated but have not received a boost?


“Based on current data, the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ will remain the same after recommendations for a booster dose,” the CDC said. say.

A person is considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after completing their initial vaccination series, such as two doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

When it comes to people who are immunocompromised, it can be a little more complicated, Gupta says.

‘For the sake of clarity, if you are immune compromised, we call your third shot a third dose. Third doses for people with an immune system are now available. If you do not immune compromise, a third shot is considered a reinforcement.

‘According to the CDC, those with a moderate to severe weakened immune system are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and cannot build the same level immunity to two-dose vaccine range, compared to people who are not immunocompromised. This additional dose is aimed at enhancing the immune-compromised response to their initial vaccine range. ”

Is it going to be an annual boost, like flu vaccines?

“We do not know yet,” says Schaffner. ‘We would expect these amplifiers, because they really increase your antibody levels and increase to a very high level, to provide long-term protection. How long? Well, we’ll have to see.

‘Remember, we’re learning more and more about vaccines against COVID-19 and COVID-19, so we can not predict at the moment whether it’s an annual boost, or every 2 years or every 3 years. We’ll just have to see. ”

Should I expect the same side effects as I experienced when I received my initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine?

You may experience similar side effects, such as arm pain, light flu, body aches and other common symptoms, according to to the CDC.

But it’s important to remember that everyone else responds to vaccines, Ascher says.

“I had patients (as well as personal experience) where there were no minimal symptoms, and others who felt like they had a mild flu for 24 hours,” he says.

‘I do not expect any side effects greater than what you felt with your previous doses. The vaccine is very safe, and the benefit of vaccination outweighs the risk of mild side effects. ”

If you want more information, you can go to the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sites for updates on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. You can also contact your doctor or other healthcare provider to find out more.

WebMD Health News


Anita Gupta, DO, Assistant Assistant Professor of Anesthesia and Medicine for Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Eric Ascher, MD, General Practitioner, Lenox Hill Hospital.

William Schaffner, MD, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University.



© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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