By Ashley Archibald
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidelines about who is currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccine boosters. A booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine given after the protection provided by the original shot(s) has begun to decrease over time.
The new guidelines mean that there are now booster recommendations for all three available COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. In addition, people eligible for boosters who received any of the three vaccines may “mix and match” by getting a booster shot different from what they were previously vaccinated with.
Pfizer and Moderna boosters
For individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends that the following groups receive a booster dose six months after their initial series of shots:
- Anyone aged 65 years and over who are fully vaccinated,
- Anyone aged 18-64 with underlying health conditions and believe it would be beneficial,
- Residents in institutional or long-term care settings,
- People aged 18-64 who have a high-risk job, such as health care workers, firefighters, grocery store employees, teachers, and more.
The CDC recommendation in October allows for Americans to “mix and match” by choosing a different booster shot from their original vaccination. For example, someone who was vaccinated with Moderna may choose to get a Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson booster. And someone who was vaccinated with Pfizer may choose to get a Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson booster.
Third vaccine doses for immunocompromised to reach full protection
In addition, the FDA and CDC have authorized third doses for anyone who has been vaccinated with either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots and has a compromised immune system due to chronic illnesses, transplant surgery, or cancer treatment, among others.
This is because some immunocompromised people did not mount a good response to the vaccine. A third shot of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna), which is identical to the first two doses, ensures that they are protected.
The CDC recommends that a third shot is received at least 28 days after completing a previous two-dose series. A person’s primary care provider is best positioned to determine whether a third dose is appropriate, as well as when it should be given.
Johnson & Johnson boosters
The CDC and FDA booster recommendations for those who received Johnson & Johnson vaccines are broader than recommendations for those who received Pfizer and Moderna. Everyone 18 and older who got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is now eligible for a booster two months after receiving their shot.
Those who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine may also “mix and match” with a different brand for their booster. For example, someone who was vaccinated with a Johnson & Johnson shot may choose to get either a Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, or Pfizer booster.
Keeping our communities safe
Experts are recommending booster shots and third doses for these populations that are more vulnerable or more likely to be exposed to the virus because there has been evidence that the effectiveness of the vaccine wanes over time. Also, the delta variant—which is the predominant strain in Washington state—is more infectious than other variants have been so far.
Seattle and King County have taken steps to accommodate demand for booster shots. They announced on Sept. 27 that they have reopened or increased capacity at 17 vaccination sites and have enough vaccine doses and supplies for everyone eligible.
Boosters are also available at International Community Health Services (ICHS). Walk-ins are welcome at ICHS pharmacies in Seattle (International District and Holly Park) and Shoreline. Call (425) 373-3000 to make an appointment at the ICHS Bellevue clinic. For more information, visit ichs.com.