COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots: What You Need To Know

Written by 
Lacey Ramburger
Reviewed by 
Dr. Sahar Zuberi, MD
Article at a glance
  • The CDC recommends everyone who is able should receive all of their COVID-19 vaccine(s), including updated booster shots.

  • Booster shots do not necessarily need to be the same brand as the initial vaccines.

  • The most recently updated booster shots help target newer Omicron sub-variants, including BA.4 and BA.5.

Close-Up Shot of a Health Worker Injecting a Vaccine on a Patient

About The COVID-19 Vaccines

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are effective at protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and dying [from COVID-19].” These vaccines have been safely received by hundreds of millions of people to help curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Currently, there are four approved vaccines available in the US, including:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech (mRNA vaccine)

  • Moderna (mRNA vaccine)

  • Novavax (protein sub-unit vaccine)

  • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (viral vector vaccine, only given in some situations)

Note: To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines, visit this source. For more information about specific vaccines, visit the sources below:

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COVID-19 Booster Shots

Booster shots are additional doses of a vaccine given to help boost immunity that might have worn off over time after the initial vaccination. In the case of COVIDovid-19, the updated boosters target certain strains of the Omnicron variant, including subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, that are considered more immune resistant and contagious than previous strains.

Man smiling at computer at kitchen table

Where To Go To Receive The Booster Shot

To receive an updated booster shot, there are a few different ways you can choose:

  • Asking your healthcare provider, pharmacist, or community health center, or visit their website.

  • Contacting your state health department.

  • Contacting your local pharmacy or visiting their website to see if vaccination appointments are available (some pharmacies may take walk-ins).

If you are homebound, there are resources available to help:

  • Calling your local health care provider or state health department.

Contacting advocacy groups targeted towards health services for homebound people, such asThe Aging Network or theDisability Information and Access Line.

Doctor reassuring patient in hospital room

COVID-19 Booster Shot Q &A

Do You Need To Get A Booster Shot If You've Been Vaccinated?

It's strongly recommended by the CDC and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) that those who are able should strive to be up-to-date with their vaccinations (meaning receiving both a primary and booster vaccination, including the most recent booster dose). Receiving up-to-date vaccines is one of the most effective ways to avoid contracting COVID-19 especially given that immune response tends to fade over time.

Who Is Recommended To Receive The COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot?

Recommendations for the booster shot depend upon age, though overall the CDC recommends that anyone who is able to receive their updated COVID-19 booster dose. For those who are immunocompromised, talking to your healthcare provider regarding your condition or serious illness should be done before receiving any booster doses.

Are The COVID-19 Booster Shots Safe?

According to the CDC, all vaccine development steps were taken to ensure vaccine safety and effectiveness. Clinical trials, FDA approval, and vaccine monitoring systems have all been implemented to ensure safety and efficacy.

That being said, when receiving a booster shot, you may experience some side effects (similar to those you may experience with a flu vaccine) including:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Fatigue or tiredness

  • Pain at the injection site

Serious effects–including allergic reaction–are rare, but still possible. This is why people are required to sit and wait fifteen minutes after receiving their booster dose to ensure there are no adverse reactions.

Which COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Dose Should You Get?

Three of the four approved vaccines–Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen–have an available updated booster dose (Novavax has not been officially approved as a booster at this time). In some cases, it's not necessary to get the same brand of the booster as the initial two-dose primary series or one-dose primary series.

These are the boosters you can get based on your initial vaccination(s):

Pfizer-BioNTech: can be Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

Moderna: can be Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

Novavax: can be Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen: can be Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson

When Should You Get The Covid 19 Booster Shot?

The timing of when a person should receive the Covid-19 booster depends on a few factors, including age, the brand of the initial vaccinations received, and current vaccination status.

Those 6 Months-4 Years Old

  • Pfizer BioNTech: at least 8 weeks after the 2nd dose

  • Moderna: currently no booster is required after the 2nd dose

  • Novavax: currently no booster is required after the 2nd dose

Those 5-11 Years Old

  • Pfizer BioNTech: at least 5 months after the 2nd dose.

  • Moderna: currently no booster is required after the 2nd dose

  • Novavax: currently no booster is required after the 2nd dose

Those 12-17 Years Old

  • Pfizer BioNTech: at least two months after 2nd dose or last booster (note: can only be Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose)

  • Moderna: at least 2 months after 2nd dose or last booster (note: can only be Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose)

  • Novavax: at least 2 months after 2nd dose or last booster (note: can only be Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose)

Adults 18 Years & Older

  • Pfizer BioNTech: At least 2 months after the 2nd dose or last booster

  • Moderna: At least 2 months after the 2nd dose or last booster

  • Novavax: At least 2 months after the 2nd dose or last booster

  • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen: At least 2 months after the 1st dose or last booster.

Does Health Insurance Cover COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots?

This will vary depending on the insurance plan, but in most cases, health insurance plans cover the initial vaccinations, not an additional dose/booster. However, contact your health insurance provider for more information regarding what your plan covers.

Chart breaking down the ages for different COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.

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