Published on December 10, 2021

Had Your COVID-19 Booster?

Senior man and woman with grandchild

Winter is officially here — and that means spending more time inside where germs, including the COVID-19 virus, spread more easily. Fortunately, officials recently expanded eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots to help protect families. But what are boosters, why are they important and how can you get yours? Let’s break it down.

1. Shots Boost Protection

A COVID-19 booster is an added vaccine given after the protection from the initial COVID-19 vaccine series begins to wane, said Marcia Nelson, M.D., Enloe’s Chief Medical Officer. Booster shots are designed to help maintain your immunity for a longer period of time. Dr. Nelson encourages people to get their boosters once they’re eligible. If you’re 18 or older and got the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, that’s six months after getting your second dose. If you’re 18 or older and got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that’s two months after getting your single-dose shot.

“We want to make sure everybody is protected as much as possible, especially as we get into winter, when we’re anticipating COVID cases to go up,” she said. “All respiratory viruses spread more when people are in closer quarters, and when it’s cold outside, people tend to go indoors.”

“We want to make sure everybody is protected as much as possible, especially as we get into winter, when we’re anticipating COVID cases to go up,” said Marcia Nelson, M.D., Enloe’s Chief Medical Officer.

Currently, boosters are not recommended for minors, but that will probably change in the near future, she added. However, children can get an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if they have a weakened immune system. More on that later.

2. Doses Can Vary

COVID-19 booster shots are the same medicine as the initial COVID-19 vaccines. However, the dose changes if you get a Moderna booster. You see, those boosters consist of half the dosage of the Moderna vaccine people received during their initial series. If you get a Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson booster, you’ll get the same dosage given during the initial series.

3. You Can Pick Your Shot

When it comes to what vaccine you’ll get as your booster, you can choose. The Food and Drug Administration approves getting any of the three available vaccines as a booster, regardless of which shot you received initially. This is called “mixing and matching,” and the strategy has benefits.

“Finding a particular type of vaccine is no longer a barrier, and that makes it easier for people to get a booster,” Dr. Nelson said. “Plus, if people have a personal preference about the kind of vaccine they want, they can make that choice. Both of those strategies make it more likely that people will get their booster, which will then keep our community healthier.”

4. Additional Doses Can Be Given Earlier

“If we don’t want to spread — or get — COVID ourselves, getting a booster is our best strategy,” Nelson said.

Along with boosters, you may have heard of “additional doses.” The term is causing some confusion, but the difference is simple, Dr. Nelson said. A third, or additional dose, of the COVID-19 vaccine is meant for people with weakened immune systems.

“We knew that those patients, especially, needed to keep their immunity at the highest level possible,” she said.

That’s why immunocompromised individuals were able to get an additional dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine 28 days after their second dose, even before boosters were approved. If you’re among this group and get the Moderna additional dose, you will get a full dose of the vaccine.

“So the dosing can be different, the population is different and the timing is different,” Dr. Nelson added.

5. You Can Book Your Booster

If you’re eligible for a booster shot and have yet to receive it, make an appointment at myturn.ca.gov. And talk to your provider if you have questions about which vaccine to choose.

“A lot of us in the community had our initial series more than 10 months ago, and our immunity will start dropping just as we’re going into a very vulnerable time,” Dr. Nelson said. “If we don’t want to spread — or get — COVID ourselves, getting a booster is our best strategy.”