COVID‑19 vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent serious illness from COVID‑19. Because protection from your original COVID‑19 vaccine can decrease over time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends booster shots for eligible individuals.
A booster shot is an additional dose of the vaccine given after the primary vaccination series and, possibly, previous boosters. This can help increase protection against COVID‑19. The updated COVID‑19 boosters approved in August 2022 protect against dominant variants of the virus.
"Vaccines are a powerful tool to stop the spread of COVID‑19 and to prevent serious illness. I strongly encourage you to get your booster dose," says Carla Garcia Carreno, M.D., Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Children's Health℠. "This is our best chance to keep our families healthy and keep this pandemic under control."
Booster dose guidelines may be updated as we continue to learn how long vaccines provide protection and as new variants emerge. Learn more about who can get a COVID‑19 booster, when and why they are important.
Is there a new COVID‑19 booster shot?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized an updated booster shot for use starting in late August 2022.
The updated booster formula targets the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant. These strains have made up most new cases in the U.S. for several months and are predicted to continue circulating. The updated boosters also continue to target the original strain of COVID‑19. For this reason, they are called "bivalent" boosters, meaning they target two strains.
The following updated booster shots are authorized for use:
- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID‑19 Vaccine, Bivalent: Single-use booster in individuals 12 and older
- Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine, Bivalent: Single-use booster in individuals 18 and older
With these new boosters authorized for use, the preexisting monovalent boosters (which contained only original SARS-CoV-2 strain mRNA) are no longer authorized as boosters for people ages 12 and older.
Who should get a COVID‑19 booster shot and when?
To protect you and your family against COVID‑19, stay up to date with vaccinations and booster doses. Booster recommendations may vary depending on an individual’s age, health conditions and prior vaccinations.
In general, the updated bivalent booster shot is recommended for everyone ages 12 and older, at least 2 months after your primary vaccination series (and/or 2 months after a prior booster dose). Children ages 5-11 can still get the original (monovalent) booster when eligible. See the current CDC recommendations on when to get a COVID‑19 booster shot based on your primary vaccination series.
COVID‑19 vaccine recommendations are different for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised. People with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe COVID‑19 illness and may need an additional dose as part of their primary vaccination series and a booster dose. Learn more about vaccine recommendations for people with weakened immune systems, and talk to your health care provider if you have questions.
Why should I get a COVID‑19 booster?
A COVID‑19 booster gives added protection against COVID‑19 infection and helps keep your family healthy. Data shows that COVID‑19 vaccines begin to lose some effectiveness at preventing infection or severe illness over time, especially against newer variants (based on studies of vaccine effectiveness and studies measuring antibody levels). New boosters protect against newer variants of COVID‑19.
In clinical trials, booster shots increased the immune response in vaccinated individuals and helped prevent severe disease. This is especially important as highly contagious variants emerge and the risk of exposure increases. Data from the CDC Data from the CDC shows that unvaccinated adults had a 5x higher risk of COVID‑19 infection compared with adults who were fully vaccinated with a booster shot. In addition, booster doses proved highly effective at preventing hospitalization for COVID‑19 illness.
Do I need a booster shot if I've had COVID‑19?
Everyone eligible should get a COVID‑19 booster shot, even if they've already had COVID‑19. A booster dose can help increase the protection that may fade from natural immunity (immunity after COVID‑19 infection).
Are COVID‑19 boosters safe?
The development of the COVID‑19 vaccines and boosters followed critical steps to make sure they met safety guidelines. These vaccines have been found to be safe and help prevent the risks of COVID‑19 infection. Some mild side effects may occur but should resolve quickly.
Does the COVID‑19 booster have side effects?
Mild to moderate side effects may occur after getting a COVID‑19 vaccine or booster. Side effects are a normal sign that tells us the body is building protection against the virus. Some individuals may not experience any side effects from the booster shot, but those who do should generally expect them to go away after a few days.
Booster shot side effects may be like side effects from your original vaccine series and include:
- Pain, redness or swelling on the arm where you got the shot
- Muscle pain
- Chills, fever or nausea
Talk to your child's pediatrician if your child's side effects are worrisome or don't go away after a few days.
Can you "mix and match" COVID‑19 boosters?
Depending on your age, you can "mix and match" which type of booster you get. The CDC outlines everything you need to know about mixing COVID‑19 vaccine products.
What are other ways to keep your family safe from COVID‑19?
The best way to keep your family safe from COVID‑19 is by ensuring everyone in your household who is eligible gets vaccinated and boosted. As of June 2022, the FDA has authorized the COVID‑19 vaccine for individuals ages 6 months and older. If you have a baby too young for a COVID‑19 vaccine, you can help keep them safe by getting yourself vaccinated and boosted.
You can also take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID‑19, such as:
- Wearing a high-quality, well-fitted mask when indoors in areas with high COVID‑19 community levels (see mask recommendations)
- Keeping hands clean by washing or sanitizing
- Get tested if you show any symptoms
- Staying home when sick
See more COVID‑19 resources
Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID‑19 hub.
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