Additional and Booster COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

Federal officials with Health and Human Services recently announced a plan to begin offering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots this fall. CDC’s independent advisory committee, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), will continue to meet and discuss data on the evolution of the pandemic and the use of COVID-19 vaccines. ACIP will make further recommendations on the use of boosters for the public after a thorough review of the evidence. Below are answers to commonly asked questions about COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

Q: When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

A: Not immediately. The goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot beginning in the fall, with individuals being eligible starting 8 months after they have received their second dose of mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). This is subject to FDA approval and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) authorization and recommendation.

Q: Who will be the first people to get a booster dose?

A: Once FDA approves and ACIP recommends a booster dose, the goal is for the first people eligible to be those who were the first to receive their shots in the earlier phases of the vaccine rollout and those who are most at risk. This includes healthcare providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors.

Q: Why are we waiting to start offering COVID-19 vaccine boosters?

A: The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States continue to be remarkably effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, COVID-19 constantly evolves. We’re looking at all available data to understand as much as we can about how well the vaccines are working, including how new variants, like Delta, affect vaccine effectiveness. Once FDA approves and ACIP recommends, the goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot this fall.

Q: Will people who received Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine need a booster shot?

A: It is likely that people who received a J&J COVID-19 vaccine will need a booster dose. Because the J&J vaccine wasn’t given in the United States until 70 days after the first mRNA vaccine doses (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna), the data needed to make this decision isn’t available yet. We expect more data to come in the next few weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well.

Q: Can people who received Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine get a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine?

A: There’s not enough data currently to support getting an mRNA vaccine booster dose (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) if someone has gotten a J&J vaccine. People who took the J&J vaccine will likely need a booster dose, and more data is expected in the next few weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well.

Q: If we need a booster, does that mean that the vaccine is not working?

A: No. The COVID-19 vaccines are working very well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, with the Delta variant, we are starting to see reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. For that reason, we are planning for a booster shot to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.

Q: What’s the difference between a booster shot and an additional dose?

A: An “additional dose” refers to people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised receiving an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna). This is because they may not have received adequate protection from their initial 2-dose vaccine series.

A “booster dose” is a supplemental vaccine dose given to people when the immune response to a primary vaccine series was adequate but is likely to have decreased over time.

Revised 8.23.2021

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