When the Food and Drug Administration recently authorized a second COVID-19 booster shot for some people, many of those eligible wondered whether to get one – and when, given that cases are once again rising in some parts of the country.
Here are answers to six common questions to clear up some of the confusion.
Who is eligible for a second booster?
Based on the FDA’s decision, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says:
- People age 12 and up who are immunocompromised may choose to receive a second booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) at least four months after the first booster dose.
- People 50 and older may choose to have a second booster if it has been at least four months since their first booster.
- People 18 and up who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and booster may get an mRNA booster at least four months after their first booster.
The CDC already recommended a primary series of COVID-19 vaccination for everyone age 5 and older, and a booster for everyone 12 and older. But the optional tone of the language around the second booster has left many people wondering what to do, health care experts say.
Do you need a second booster?
Dr. Won Lee, medical director of Boston Medical Center’s Home Care Program, provides home care to about 500 people in their 80s and above. She tells them, “Yes, you need it.”
Although a study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests a fourth vaccine dose provided only marginal benefits in a group of healthy, young health care workers, pharmacist Orly Vardeny says older people in general benefit from boosters because as people age, their immune response to vaccination weakens.
Anyone with chronic health conditions “is certainly on that list” of people who need a fresh booster, says Vardeny, an associate professor of medicine at the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and University of Minnesota. That would include people with cardiovascular disease.
But she says even for people 50 and older with no underlying conditions, “there’s really not a good reason not to get boosted” again.
Why did the booster recommendations change?
The changes are based on new science, Vardeny adds. “I think if they didn’t change things on us, despite a changing landscape of COVID, that would be worrisome.”
The CDC still says vaccines provide important protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, especially among