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COVID-19: The benefits of boosters

A man wearing a mask and pulling up his sleeve.

Vaccination is a great way to protect yourself from COVID-19. But once you're fully vaccinated, you might be asking: When should I get a booster dose? And do I need one?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has OK'd COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for everyone 5 and up.

Any adult can get a COVID-19 booster if it has been:

  • Five months since they completed their primary Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series.
  • Two months since they received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

And anyone 5 to 17 years old can get a Pfizer booster five months after completing their primary Pfizer vaccine series.

Some people are eligible for a second booster dose. That includes people over age 50 and people with weakened immune systems.

Why booster shots are important

Here are some key reasons you should get a booster shot:

You may need the extra protection. The COVID-19 vaccine you may already have received is still working to protect you. But that protection can weaken over time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You may not have as much immunity as you did months ago. An extra dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can boost your immune response to the coronavirus, an FDA analysis showed.

Booster shots are safe. The shots use the same vaccines that millions of Americans have already received, although the Moderna booster shot is half the dose of the original vaccine. Many people have no side effects at all. If they do occur, they typically are mild. Common side effects include a sore arm, fever, headache and fatigue. Swollen lymph nodes are more common after a booster shot than after the original set of vaccines. Serious reactions are rare.

Boosters are free and easy to get. It won't cost you anything to get a COVID-19 booster shot. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how to get one. Or call the local health department. You might even be able to get a walk-in appointment.

Which shot should you choose?

Adults don't need to stick with the same brand as their first COVID-19 vaccine, but anyone under 18 must stick with the Pfizer vaccine. The Novavax vaccine is not authorized for use as a booster dose.

Reviewed 6/9/2022

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