COVID‑19 vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent serious COVID‑19 illness. 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 recommends booster shots for eligible individuals.
A booster shot is an additional dose of the vaccine given after the primary 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 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.
Who should get a COVID‑19 booster and when?
To protect you and your family against COVID‑19, stay up to date with vaccinations and booster doses.
In general, everyone 5 years and older is eligible to get a booster dose of the COVID‑19 vaccine. Certain groups of people are able to get two booster doses. 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 the Pfizer COVID‑19 vaccine. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised can get a booster dose 3 months after completing their primary series.
- Note: The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only COVID‑19 booster approved for children.
- 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. People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised can get their booster dose 3 months after completing their primary 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 vaccine is recommended.
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. Learn more about vaccine recommendations for people with weakened immune systems.
Who should get a second booster shot?
Certain groups of people are eligible to get a second COVID‑19 booster dose. Eligible individuals include:
- People 50 years of age and older who got their first booster dose at least 4 months ago.
- People 12 years of age and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and got their first booster at least 4 months ago.
- People 18 years of age and older who got 2 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least 4 months ago.
If you are eligible for a second booster dose, consider getting it as soon as you can if you or someone you live with is at high risk for severe COVID‑19 illness, or if you are at high risk for COVID‑19 exposure. On the other hand, certain people, such as those who recently had COVID‑19, may consider waiting to get their second booster dose. 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).
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 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
- 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.
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:
- Wear a high-quality, well-fitted mask when indoors in areas with high COVID‑19 community levels (see mask recommendations)
- Keep hands clean by washing or sanitizing
- 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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