Big news in the fight against COVID-19! Booster shots are now approved for adults who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with younger eligibility for those who received the Pfizer series. But as we navigate what seems to be an ever-changing virus with ever-changing rules, an announcement like this often leads to more questions than answers.
Who is eligible for a COVID-19 booster? When can I get a COVID-19 booster? Do I have to use the same vaccine brand? And where can I find COVID-19 booster shots near me? If you need answers to questions like these, FastMed is here to help.
Giving us a boost
Perhaps you have heard this saying before: change is the only constant in life. This philosophy has certainly proven true during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we learn more and more about the virus, including the new Omicron variant, health agencies continue to conduct scientific research and work closely with pharmaceutical companies to develop life-saving solutions. It all began with developing COVID-19 vaccines, first for the elderly and people with underlying health conditions who were most at risk. And look at how far we’ve come since then–today, anyone above the age of five can get a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that all COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States are safe and effective, and that most people who are fully vaccinated are relatively well-protected from serious illness or death caused by COVID-19.
However, no vaccine is 100% effective, and even the best vaccines often become less effective over time. Early research on vaccines that use mRNA to protect us from the COVID-19 virus–like the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna–suggests that they too will eventually lose some of their power to fight infection, regardless of the variant of the virus (Alpha, Delta, etc.).
Getting a booster shot after your first round of the COVID-19 vaccine can help supercharge the vaccine’s effectiveness. That’s why the CDC is now strongly recommending all adults 18 and older get a COVID-19 booster shot, particularly if your immune response is already weak or likely to weaken over time. Booster eligibility for those who received the Pfizer vaccine series is even younger.
The importance of immunity
Our immune system plays a vital role in keeping us healthy. This complex network of organs, tissues, proteins and cells works hard every day, protecting the body by fighting invasive viruses, germs and even cell changes that can cause cancer and other diseases.
According to the CDC, nearly 3% of U.S. adults have a weakened immune system and fall into the “immunocompromised” category. Whether this weakness is caused by disease or medication, an immunocompromised person will have a harder time fighting off infection than a healthy person would. Their immune system also will not respond as well to initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine–and the response it does have will be more likely to wear off over time.
There are many diseases and medications that can suppress a person’s immune system, including:
- Chronic lymphocytic or chronic myeloid leukemia
- Advanced or untreated HIV/AIDS
- Certain genetic disorders, such as congenital immunoglobin A deficiency
- Anti-cancer drugs
- Post-transplant medications
- Immunosuppressant drugs used to treat autoimmune conditions
- High doses of corticosteroids
Medical treatments such as bone marrow transplant, stem cell transplant, organ transplant and radiation therapy can greatly impact a person’s immune system as well.
The CDC already suggests a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for people with weaker immune systems, especially those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. This extra dose–which is typically given a month after the second dose–is not technically a booster shot, although many people call it that. If you’ve already had a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, ask your doctor if you still might need a COVID-19 booster shot.
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 booster?
After the Pfizer vaccine
If you got both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and at least five months have passed, you may be eligible to receive a booster shot. The CDC currently recommends a COVID-19 booster shot for the following groups.
- Everyone 12 years or older – While the CDC’s previous guidance was that adults may get a booster shot, it is now recommended that those in this category should get a booster shot, as well as those between ages 12-17. In response to the new Omicron variant, COVID-19 prevention measures are more important than ever.
- Higher risk individuals are strongly encouraged to receive a booster shot, including those who are:
- Older adults (65 years and older) – The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, especially for those with underlying medical conditions.
- Long-term care residents (18 years and older) – Because residents in long-term care settings live closely together and are often older adults with underlying medical conditions, they are at greater risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19.
- People with underlying medical conditions (18 years and older) – The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 can increase for adults of any age who have underlying medical conditions.
- People who work or live in high-risk settings (18 years and older) – People who work or live in certain public settings (such as hospitals, schools, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, factories or stores) may be at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure. These include first responders (medical personnel, firefighters, police officers, etc.), teachers, daycare workers, manufacturing workers, corrections workers, public transit workers and grocery store workers.
After the Moderna vaccine
If you got both doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and at least five months have passed, you may be eligible to receive a booster shot. The CDC currently recommends a COVID-19 booster shot for the following groups.
- Adults (18 years or older)
- Higher risk individuals as outlined above
After the Johnson & Johnson vaccine
If you got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine and at least two months have passed, the CDC currently recommends a COVID-19 booster shot for anyone 18 years and older. A single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is less effective than two doses.
When can I get a COVID-19 booster?
Based on current recommendations, people who are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot must wait at least five months after both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or at least two months after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Do I have to use the same vaccine brand?
More good news: the CDC says that you can choose which vaccine you get as a booster shot.
For example, if you got the Pfizer vaccine, you could get the Moderna booster shot if you prefer. Some research suggests that mixing vaccines might give you even more protection against COVID-19 infection.
You can use any of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States for your booster shot. The three vaccines available today are Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. And in case you’re wondering, COVID-19 booster shots are the same formulation as the current COVID-19 vaccines, although the Moderna booster shot contains half as much as the initial doses.
For people who are immunocompromised and receive a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the additional dose should be the same brand as the first two doses. But if the first brand isn’t known, either brand can be used.
Where can I find COVID-19 booster shots near me?
FastMed is here for your COVID-19 needs, including diagnostic testing, rapid antibody testing, vaccines and now booster shots. You can count on FastMed to provide you with expert care and compassionate hospitality as we navigate this pandemic together.
FastMed is also dedicated to keeping our community educated on the latest COVID-19 updates. Please visit our COVID-19 Resources page for more information, including commonly asked questions and the most recent CDC recommendations.
To learn more about health updates in your specific state, please use the links below:
Schedule your COVID-19 booster shot today
Are COVID-19 booster shots available? Yes, at select clinics while supplies last! Contact your local FastMed Urgent Care today to learn how you can protect yourself and your loved ones even further.
If you need urgent care for other reasons, we’re here to help. FastMed provides fast, high-quality medical care–no waiting for a call back from your physician or sitting in a crowded emergency room. We treat a wide range of injuries and illnesses, including:
- Acute pain
- Allergic reactions
- Bee stings and insect bites
- Broken bones
- Cuts and scrapes
- Flu and other viruses
- High blood pressure
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Respiratory infections
- Sinus infections
- Skin care
- Sore throat and strep throat
- Sports injuries
- Strains and sprains
- Urinary tract infections
In addition to medical evaluations, the team at FastMed can administer medications, perform minor surgical procedures, provide partial casting and splinting, care for wounds (including stitches) and more. We offer both in-person appointments and telemedicine visits for your convenience. Contact us or stop by today!
FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates over 200 clinics in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas that provide a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days a year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation and other occupational health services at all its clinics, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than six million patients and is the only independent urgent care operator in North Carolina, Arizona and Texas to be awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for quality, safety and infection control in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit www.fastmed.com.