Conversation Guide: Boosters

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What is a booster?

Boosters are shots you get after you are fully vaccinated so that you can stay protected against COVID-19. It is important to stay up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines by getting boosters when you are eligible.

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Do boosters mean the vaccines don’t work?

COVID-19 vaccines are very effective. If you are up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines, you are less likely to get infected with COVID-19, get dangerously ill or die, and spread it to loved ones. 

Boosters are common for many vaccines. For example, tetanus vaccines require boosters every 10 years for adults. Scientists have found that with some vaccines a person’s protection decreases over time, and a booster helps them stay protected. The COVID-19 booster works the same way. Boosters may also broaden your protection against new variants

Are boosters safe?

Yes, boosters are very safe. Boosters have the same ingredients as the original vaccines, which have been proven safe for hundreds of millions of people. Most people who receive boosters experience the same mild side effects as they did when they got their second shot. Serious side effects are very rare, and most people who have them get better.

I am fully vaccinated. Do I need a booster?

COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. However, staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines, including getting a booster when you are eligible, is important so that  you have the most protection. Scientists have found that fully vaccinated people’s protection decreases over time, and a booster helps them stay protected. In addition, boosters may help broaden your protection against new variants.

If I don’t get a booster, am I still considered fully vaccinated?

Yes, you are still considered fully vaccinated if you do not get a booster. Fully vaccinated, however, does not mean you are fully protected. For the most protection, it is important to be up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines. That means getting a booster shot when you’re eligible.

If I don’t get a booster, am I considered up-to-date on my vaccines?

It depends. Everyone is considered up to date until the time they are eligible for a booster – which is a few months after you are fully vaccinated.

What is the point in getting vaccinated if I will keep needing boosters?

If you are fully vaccinated, you are less likely to get dangerously ill or die from COVID-19 or spread it to loved ones. 

Boosters may give you even more protection from new variants, like Delta or Omicron. he best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19 is to stay up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines, including getting a booster when you are eligible.

I was vaccinated in another country. Can I get a booster?

If you received a vaccine that is offered in the United States (currently Moderna, Pfizer, Novavax or Johnson & Johnson), you should receive a booster a few months after your final dose to ensure that you stay protected against COVID-19. 

If you received a vaccine that is not offered in the United States but is approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), you should also receive a booster to stay protected.

If you received a vaccine that is not approved by the WHO (like Sputnik or CanSino) you should get vaccinated again in the United States. People in this situation do not need a booster because they need to be vaccinated again with a vaccine offered in the United States.

What are these new COVID-19 boosters, and how do they differ from the existing ones?

Updated boosters were needed because many people continue to get sick with the new variants of COVID-19. These boosters are called “bivalent” because they protect better against both the original COVID-19 and newer variants. 

Two COVID-19 vaccine companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have developed updated (bivalent) COVID-19 boosters that protect against newer variants. They are strongly recommended for anyone 5 years of age and older.

I thought the original vaccines already protected me against variants like Omicron. Why is a new formula necessary?

Previous vaccines and boosters were designed to protect against the original COVID-19. They also provide some protection against new variants, but not as much as the updated (bivalent) boosters. Scientists have also found that vaccinated people’s protection decreases over time, and a booster helps them stay protected.

Are bivalent vaccines safe?

Yes. The new (bivalent) booster was developed based on the existing COVID-19 vaccines,  which hundreds of millions of people in the United States have already safely received. There are many vaccines that safely protect against two or more variants of a virus, including the flu shot. 

As of November 2022, no serious side effects related to the vaccine have been reported for bivalent booster doses.

Why is it important to get a new booster?

The best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19 is to stay up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines. If you are not up-to-date, you are much more likely to get infected with COVID-19, get dangerously ill, or die.

Staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines means getting both doses of your two-shot vaccine and then getting booster shots when you are eligible.

Do I still need a new booster if I got a booster before?

If you got a booster before Sept. 2, 2022, you probably did not get a bivalent booster that offers more protection against newer variants. You should get a new booster a few months after your most recent dose to ensure you stay protected against COVID-19.

Do I still need a new booster if I had COVID-19?

Yes. Everyone should get the new (bivalent) booster, even people who have had COVID-19. Previous COVID-19 infection can provide some protection, but not for very long. Getting the bivalent booster provides the most protection.

After being sick with COVID-19, you should wait a few months before getting the bivalent booster. That’s because it is less likely you will get sick with COVID-19 again during this time. Talk to your medical provider about the best timing for you.

Why do I need to get the primary series if the bivalent booster covers both the original strain and Omicron? Can I skip straight to the new booster?

No, the updated bivalent boosters are not authorized for the primary series because they have not been tested that way. In order to be eligible for a bivalent booster, you must receive two doses of the original vaccines.

Are there any special considerations around scheduling, given that it's also time for flu vaccines?

There is no specific time you need to wait between getting your flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine or booster. You could get both vaccines at the same time safely or in separate appointments if you prefer.

Is there any reason not to mix and match boosters, by getting my bivalent from a different manufacturer than my primary series?

It is safe and effective to get a bivalent booster from any of the approved manufacturers, regardless of which you received for your primary series.

Why does the CDC not recommend mixing products for the primary series doses while it is ok to mix and match for the bivalent booster?

The CDC does not recommend mixing products for the primary series because they have not been tested that way.