As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on and the Omicron variant continues to spread like wildfire, it’s no surprise that there’s still a ton of confusion surrounding guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, particularly related to the vaccines and booster shots. The fact that nearly all people have been vaxxed since last year, and the emergence of the Omicron variant, has led to confusion about the CDC’s recommendations for booster shots . This includes anyone who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines within the last five months, or any person who received it within the past two years.
“Vaccines are working incredibly well to protect from serious disease; the proof is in the hospital data,” says Sunaina Suhag, M.D., a family medicine physician at Austin Regional Clinic in Austin, Texas. “In general, people who need to be admitted to hospital for serious Covid symptoms are not vaccinated.” That means vaccines are doing what we want them to do — keep people out of the hospital.”
However, the CDC barely started recommending boosters for everyone before its messaging seemingly got lost in the chaos surrounding the rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations around the country. We have all the answers you need to your questions about boosters, including whether you are eligible and can mix and match manufacturers.
First off, what exactly is a booster shot? A Covid booster shot is a second dose of vaccine that is administered after your initial protection from the Covid vaccine has weakened. It is intended to help maintain adequate immunity.
“The rationale for a booster is that there is some evidence that vaccine effectiveness begins to wear off,” explains Dr. Suhag. A booster is a way to maintain immunity and fight serious side effects. Some studies have pointed to waning immunity around five to six months after a completed vaccines series, and this data was evaluated by the FDA when they recommended boosters for adults and, recently, children over 12 years old.”
The formulation of the booster shots is the same as the current Covid-19 vaccines, though the Moderna booster is actually half the dose of the vaccine given in the initial series. If you are still not fully vaccinated, it is best to start with the primary series. If you’re 18 or older and received the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson shot, the CDC says it’s safe to receive boosters by any of the three manufacturers. Teenagers who are 12 to 17 years old and received the Pfizer vaccine should receive a booster from the same brand.
What are the most common booster side effects?
According to Dr. Suhag, booster side effects are likely to be similar to whatever you may have experienced when you received a Moderna, Pfizer or J&J vaccine. This may mean you end up feeling nothing at all, or you may experience a reaction with symptoms such as:
- Pain at the injection site
- Muscle pain
“I recommend planning your day (and the next day) with the assumption that you won’t feel 100% for at least 24 hours,” Dr. Suhag says.