covid 19 vaccine booster dose

National healthcare leaders recently called for booster doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for some individuals. Does that mean the vaccine isn’t doing its job?

Not at all, said Kristin Dascomb, MD, an Infectious Diseases physician and the Medical Director for Employee Health at Intermountain Healthcare. “We have full confidence that the vaccines work. If you look at the data, you’ll see that people who are vaccinated are significantly less likely to develop severe disease, be hospitalized, or die.”

With COVID-19 cases continuing to increase due to the Delta variant, COVID-19 vaccines are more important than ever to prevent serious illness and reduce COVID-19 in our communities. For specific populations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and a third dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

 

Can I get a booster?

Research has shown that young and healthy people have excellent immunity months after vaccination. That’s why only certain groups are eligible for a booster dose right now.

Johnson & Johnson booster doses are recommended for people who were vaccinated at least two months ago and who are:

  • Ages 18 and older

Pfizer booster doses are recommended for people who were vaccinated at least six months ago and who are:

  • Age 16 and older

Moderna booster doses are recommended for people who were vaccinated at least six months ago and who are:

  • Age 18 and older

What’s considered an underlying medical condition?

  • Heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies or hypertension)
  • Stroke or vascular diseases that affect blood flow to the brain
  • Kidney problems
  • Lung diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma, and cystic fibrosis
  • Liver disease
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
  • Down syndrome
  • Obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m)
  • Pregnancy or recent pregnancy
  • Smoking, current or former
  • Substance use disorders
  • Cancer*
  • HIV infection*
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
  • Sickle cell disease or thalassemia*
  • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant*

*If you are getting a Moderna booster and have a condition or take a medicine that suppresses your immune system, you may need a full dose of Moderna for your booster rather than the half-dose booster. Talk to your doctor about what dose is best for you.

I want a booster shot but I got a different vaccine. Can I mix and match my vaccines?

Yes. The CDC recommendation now allows mixing-and-matching of COVID-19 vaccines, meaning you can get a different type of vaccine booster than the type of vaccine you originally received. Talk to your healthcare team about this option if you have questions.

Since there is a recommendation for some people to get a booster, does that mean that the vaccines aren’t working?

No. According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection, especially among certain populations, against mild and moderate disease. A booster dose can help increase the immune response again to protect against COVID-19.

How can I get a booster shot?

Patients can get vaccinated by their primary care provider, or by finding a clinic at vaccine.gov. Some locations may allow walk-in visits, but others will require an appointment. Remember to take your vaccination card with you so you can show that you have received the initial series of vaccine. There is no need to provide a note from your healthcare team to prove you have an underlying medical condition.

What if I’ve lost my vaccination card?

If you’ve lost your card, contact the provider who gave you your COVID vaccine for help. They can check their records. Utah also provides easy access to personal or family immunization records through the Docket mobile phone app. To get started, download the free app by searching “Docket” in the App Store or on Google Play.

What should I expect from side effects?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people who have received a booster shot report side effects similar to what they experienced after their first two shots. The most common side effects after a booster are fatigue and pain at the injection site and overall. Most side effects were mild to moderate; serious side effects are rare. Contact your physician if the redness or tenderness where you got the shot gets worse after 24 hours or if your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.

I usually get a flu shot this time of year. Can I get my booster at the same time?

The CDC says yes and recommends that all of us get the flu vaccine by the end of October, even if we’re not eligible for the COVID-19 booster.

Will COVID-19 become like the flu, and require annual vaccinations?

No one has a crystal ball. We may need to develop vaccines that are customized to different variants of the virus, said Dr. Dascomb. Or we may need to get boosters, just as we do with the tetanus shot.

I’m not in an eligible group. Should I be worried that my vaccine will stop working?

Dr. Dascomb doesn’t want us to worry. Data from across the country show that the vaccines are doing a remarkable job of preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Recent figures from the Utah Department of Health show that unvaccinated Utahns had 6.4 times greater risk of getting COVID-19, 7.3 times the risk of being hospitalized, and 5.9 times the risk of dying than people who are vaccinated.

[“source=intermountainhealthcare”]