Although booster doses for the COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for a few weeks, confusion still exists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have established guidelines for eligibility for the booster injection.
“As the guidelines are written, just about everyone in the world is eligible for a booster. Anyone who has had a dose of Johnson & Johnson should absolutely get a second dose, no doubt about it,” says Dr. Dennis Cunningham, director of infection control at Henry Ford Health System.
According to the CDC, for individuals who have received a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, groups who are eligible for a booster injection 6 months or more after their first series are:
— 65 years and older
— 18 years and older living in long-term care facilities
— Age 18 and older with underlying medical conditions
— Age 18 and older who works or lives in a high-risk environment
For the nearly 15 million people who have received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for those 18 and older who were vaccinated two or more months ago.
Five things to know about boosters:
1. Some people would receive more benefits than others. “The people who really benefit the most from booster doses are those adults 65 and older,” Cunningham said. “The other criteria are who has occupational exposure or some sort of institutional exposure, such as healthcare work or maybe you’re in jail or in a group home or dorm room. Those would be groups that really benefit from it.”
2. For most people, the booster is the third shot in the series. For those who are immunocompromised, a fourth injection may be in order. “The booster dose is for people with normal immune systems. We give a third dose of the primary vaccines to anyone who is immunocompromised, then they can also get a booster. They can get up to four doses of the vaccine because we know their immune system isn’t working properly,” Cunningham said. The fourth dose may come six months after the third dose.
3. If a person has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with one dose, he or she should receive a second dose if he or she is 18 years of age and older. It can be the same or they can mix and match. “If you’ve had one dose of J&J, you can have Pfizer or Moderna or J&J as your second dose,” Cunningham said. Mixing and matching vaccines works without loss of coverage.
4. Like the initial vaccine dose, the booster is safe for anyone over the age of 18 as long as it is six months after the previous dose. “It will increase the effectiveness of the vaccine. There is no increased number of side effects or side effects, there is certainly no downside,” Cunningham said.
5. While many are not vaccinated at all, the boosters will not harm the vaccine supply. “The good news is that there are plenty of vaccines out there. Anyone who wants a vaccine can absolutely get it,” Cunningham said. “There is no shortage of vaccines in this country.”