So you finally got your COVID-19 vaccine, but what’s keeping you safe more than six months later, and how often should you return to get a booster? Navigating COVID-19 health protocols can be tricky, so Dr. Amy Ray, medical director of infection prevention and regulatory affairs at MetroHealth Systems, shares everything there is to know about booster shots.
Why Boosters Are Necessary: Doctors have found that vaccinated groups with high-risk conditions, like a weakened immune system or advanced age, have experienced more coronavirus cases than when those populations were initially vaccinated, meaning that some populations experience a drop in immunity over time. The booster helps to “refresh” that immunity. “When the memory of the vaccine starts to fade, a booster can keep one’s body prepared to fight,” says Ray.
Who The Boosters Help*: As of now, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are recommended for people 65 and older, patients with underlying health conditions 50 to 64, or people 18 and up with underlying health conditions or who work in a high-risk setting. “For the 18- to 49-year-olds, it’s an option, and that decision is probably best made between the patient and their primary provider,” says Ray. For anyone who received a Johnson and Johnson single dose, a booster is recommended as soon as two months after the initial dose.
On Switching Vaccine Types*: The CDC has approved mixing and matching boosters. "There is no definitive research indicating a preferred booster strategy, so it really is up to each individual. The important thing is to get it," says Ray.
*This story has been updated since original publication to reflect the most current up-to-date information.