Information about the COVID-19 vaccines continues to evolve daily and it can be a challenge to keep up. Below are answers to a few commonly asked questions based on the science and data we have to date.
Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], (2021a), studies have shown that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infections may decrease over time and may be less effective in protecting against coronavirus variants. As of the publishing of this article, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, marketed as Comirnaty, has received emergency use authorization (EUA) as a booster and has shown to increase the immune response in individuals who completed the primary 2-shot series. Currently, only certain populations initially vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can get a booster shot 6-months after receiving the initial two-doses:
- Older adults 65 years and older as well as individuals 50-64 years with underlying medical conditions (see list of conditions below)
- Long-term care setting residents age 19 years and older
- Individuals aged 18-49 years with underlying medical conditions based on their individual benefits and risks (see list of conditions below)
- Employees (aged 18-64) at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission in the following occupational settings:
- First responders (i.e., healthcare workers, firefighters, police, congregate care staff)
- Education (i.e., teachers, support staff, daycare workers)
- Food and agriculture
- U.S. Postal Service
- Public transit
- Grocery stores
- Residents at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission in certain settings:
Are there risks associated with getting a booster shot?
The adverse reactions after receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are similar compared to those experienced after receiving the 2-shot primary series. The most common side effects reported were fatigue and pain at the injection site. Serious reactions such as anaphylaxis are rare but may occur.
Can I mix and match vaccines? For example, if I received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J/Janssen) vaccine initially, can I now get a Pfizer-BioNTech booster?
Studies are underway to answer this question, however as of today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the interchangeability of different vaccines, neither primary doses or boosters doses, due to a lack of clinical trial data.
Am I still considered “fully vaccinated” even if I can’t get a booster shot?
Yes, all individuals who received either the 2-shot series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or a single-dose of the J&J/Janssen vaccine are considered fully vaccinated after two weeks.
Can I get the influenza vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine or booster?
According to the CDC (2021b), individuals can now receive the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines such as influenza, on the same day. If more than one vaccine is administered at a single visit, providers should administer each injection in a different site and separate injection sites by at least one inch, if possible. In addition, providers should administer the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccines that may be more likely to cause a local reaction in different limbs, when possible.