Jan 17, 2022, 1:45:28 PM CST Feb 25, 2022, 9:14:22 AM CST

Who can get the COVID-19 booster shot?

Learn the latest about COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot guidelines and ways to keep your family healthy

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Studies show COVID‑19 vaccines and boosters are a safe and effective way to prevent COVID‑19 illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 5 years and older gets vaccinated against COVID‑19.

Because protection from your original COVID‑19 vaccine can decrease over time, and because data has shown that vaccine effectiveness may be lower for newer COVID‑19 variants, the CDC also recommends a booster shot for certain individuals. A booster shot is an additional dose of the vaccine given after the original vaccination series. This can help increase protection against COVID‑19.

"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 as soon as you are eligible to get it," says Carla Garcia Carreno, M.D., Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Children's Health℠. "This is our best chance to get back to more normal activity, keep our families healthy and get 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.

Who can get a COVID‑19 booster and when?

To protect you and your family against COVID‑19, stay up to date with vaccinations and a booster dose if eligible.

In general, everyone 12 years and older is eligible to get a booster dose of the COVID‑19 vaccine. See the current CDC recommendations on when you can get the COVID‑19 booster based on your original COVID‑19 vaccine:

  • If you received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID‑19 vaccine: The CDC recommends a booster shot at least 5 months after completing the primary two-shot series of Pfizer COVID‑19 vaccine. Note: The Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID‑19 vaccine approved for ages 12-17.
  • If you received the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine: Everyone over the age of 18 should get a booster shot at least 5 months after completing the primary two-shot Moderna COVID‑19 series.
  • If you received the Johnson & Johnson COVID‑19 vaccine: Everyone over the age of 18 should get a booster shot at least 2 months after receiving the J&J vaccine. Getting a Pfizer or Moderna booster is preferred in most situations.
  • If your child is immunocompromised: People with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe COVID‑19 illness. Because of this, the CDC recommends an additional primary dose of the COVID‑19 vaccine for many immunocompromised people. This additional dose is given 28 days after the second dose of their COVID‑19 vaccine and is not considered a "booster dose." Currently, immunocompromised children ages 5 and older can get an additional dose of the Pfizer COVID‑19 vaccine. Those who are eligible should also get a COVID‑19 booster dose.

Learn more about the CDC COVID‑19 booster shot recommendations.

Do I need a COVID‑19 booster to be considered fully vaccinated?

You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second shot of a two-dose vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The CDC does not require a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated. However, a booster dose helps increase your level of protection against COVID‑19.

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. Recent 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).

In clinical trials, booster shots increased the immune response in vaccinated individuals and helped prevent severe disease. This is especially important as new highly contagious variants emerge and risk of exposure increases. Data from the CDC shows that adults who were unvaccinated 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, including during the Omicron surge. 

Do I need a booster shot if I've had COVID‑19?

Everyone who is eligible should get a COVID‑19 booster shot, even if they've already had COVID‑19. A booster dose can help increase 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 steps to make sure they are safe. These vaccines have been found to be safe and to help prevent against 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 similar to side effects from your original vaccine series and include:

  • Pain, redness or swelling on the arm where you got the shot
  • Muscle pain
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • 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?

For people who are eligible for a COVID‑19 booster shot, you are able to "mix and match" which type of vaccine you get. In most cases, mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are preferred for COVID‑19 booster shots. Remember to check which vaccine your child is eligible for (Pfizer-BioNTech is currently the only approved vaccine for people younger than 18 years of age).

If your child is too young to get vaccinated or boosted, how can you help keep them safe?

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. If you have a child too young for a COVID‑19 vaccine or booster, 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:

  • Mask up and use a high quality, well-fitting mask
  • Keep hands clean by washing or sanitizing
  • Avoid crowds when possible
  • Get tested if you show any symptoms
  • Stay 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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