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. Booster shots are often made to protect you from specific variants of the virus, often those that have recently been spreading the most.
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 updated booster shots in fall 2023. This vaccine targets a strain of the virus that has been circulating most frequently called the XXB lineage of the Omicron variant. It also aims to boost protection against severe COVID‑19 that may have faded over time.
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 age, health conditions and prior vaccinations.
In general, everyone over age 5 is eligible for a booster shot. See the current CDC recommendations on when to get a COVID‑19 booster shot based on your primary vaccination series. For children age 6 months through 4 years:
- Those who are not vaccinated should get their primary series of COVID‑19 vaccines
- Those who received a COVID‑19 vaccine before September 12, 2023, should get a booster shot
How many shots your child will need and when they should get their booster will depend on whether they got the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. See detailed recommendations from the CDC.
COVID‑19 vaccine recommendations are different for people who are immunocompromised (those who have health conditions or take medicines that make it more difficult for their immune system to fight infections). Kids and adults who are immunocompromised 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. New boosters protect against newer variants of COVID‑19.
Booster shots help boost your protection against COVID‑19 and help prevent severe disease. 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? If so, when?
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 over time from natural immunity (immunity after COVID‑19 infection).
If you have recently had COVID‑19, the CDC says that you still need a booster shot, but may consider waiting up to three months after infection to get it. This is because people are generally less likely to get COVID‑19 in the weeks after having an infection. If you are not sure when to get a booster shot after having COVID‑19, ask your primary care provider.
Are COVID‑19 boosters safe?
Yes. The development of the COVID‑19 vaccines and boosters followed critical steps to meet safety guidelines. These vaccines are safe and help prevent the risks of COVID‑19 infection.
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?
Many people wonder if you can “mix and match” COVID‑19 boosters, meaning if you can get a booster shot from a different manufacturer than your original vaccine (for example, getting a Moderna booster if your original shot was Pfizer). 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.