Many people are wondering if they need an additional shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments. 

Scheduling an additional dose? Don’t forget to bring your COVID-19 vaccine card with you to your appointment.

Many Americans are now eligible for additional or booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The list of eligible people continues to grow.

The three vaccines available in the U.S. — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) — are all safe and effective against COVID-19. They are especially effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

However, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other health officials, protection from the COVID-19 vaccine can decrease over time. Some people — such as those with compromised immune systems — also may not have had a strong immune reaction to their initial doses of vaccine. And the highly contagious Delta variant (B.1.617.2) and Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) are causing COVID-19 cases to rise in the U.S. and worldwide.

With those factors in mind, many people are wondering if they need to receive an additional shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

What Is a Booster Shot?

Protection from many vaccines begins to decrease over time. Booster shots are additional doses of a vaccine, meant to help your immune system recharge protection against the disease.

Booster shots are common for many vaccines, including:

  • Tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (Tdap).
  • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR).
  • Hepatitis A and B.

People often receive booster shots for vaccines throughout their lives. For instance, you may need a tetanus booster about every 10 years to ensure protection.

COVID-19 and Booster Shots

Factors that could influence an additional shot of the COVID-19 vaccine include:

  • Your immune system didn’t have a strong response to the initial doses of the vaccine series. This may be the case for people who are immunocompromised after receiving solid organ transplants or for other reasons.
  • Your immune system had strong protection against COVID-19 after your initial vaccine series, but it’s beginning to decrease.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has changed enough that another dose of vaccine is needed to protect against it.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in preventing serious infections from SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, including the Delta and Omicron variants. However, it is still possible to get infected and to spread the virus — even if you’ve been vaccinated.

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Will There Be a COVID-19 Booster Shot?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have authorized additional or booster doses for many COVID-19 vaccine recipients.

Additional doses for immunocompromised people

Immunocompromised people who received the Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J vaccines are eligible for additional doses under these criteria:

  • Immunocompromised people ages 5 to 11 who received a Pfizer vaccine are eligible for a third dose 28 days or more after their second dose. The third dose should be Pfizer.
  • Immunocompromised people ages 12 to 17 who received a Pfizer vaccine are eligible for a third dose 28 days or more after their second dose, a fourth dose three months or more after their third dose, and a fifth dose four months or more after their fourth dose. The third, fourth, and fifth doses all should be Pfizer.
  • Immunocompromised people ages 18 and older who received a Pfizer vaccine are eligible for a third dose 28 days or more after their second dose, a fourth dose three months or more after their third dose, and a fifth dose four months or more after their fourth dose. The third dose should be Pfizer. The fourth and fifth doses can be Pfizer or Moderna.
  • Immunocompromised people 18 and older who received the Moderna vaccine are eligible for a third dose 28 days or more after their second dose, a fourth dose three months or more after their third dose, and a fifth dose four months or more after their fourth dose. The third dose should be Moderna. The fourth and fifth doses can be Pfizer or Moderna.
  • Immunocompromised people 18 and older who received the J&J vaccine are eligible for a second dose 28 days or more after their first dose, a third dose two months or more after their second dose, and a fourth dose four months or more after their third dose. The second, third, and fourth doses can be Pfizer or Moderna.

Immunocompromised people have a medical condition or treatment that impairs their immune system’s ability to fight the virus. Their immune system also may not have had a strong response to the initial vaccine series.

If you are immunocompromised, you can schedule additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Those eligible include solid organ transplant recipients, many cancer patients, and others who are immunocompromised. For more information, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com or call 844-876-2822 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Booster doses for non-immunocompromised people

The FDA and CDC also have authorized “booster” doses for people who received the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines.

  • Pfizer recipients: To be eligible for a booster, you must be ages 5 and older and must have received your second dose at least five months ago.
    • Pfizer recipients 50 and olderare eligible for a second booster dose, which they can receive four months or more after their third dose.
  • Moderna recipients: To be eligible for a booster, you must be 18 and older and must have received your second dose at least five months ago.
    • Moderna recipients 50 and older are eligible for a second booster dose, which they can receive four months or more after their third dose.
  • J&J recipients: To be eligible for a booster, you must be 18 and older and must have received your initial J&J dose at least two months ago.
    • J&J recipients 50 and older are eligible for a second booster dose, which they can receive four months or more after their second dose.

For the first booster dose, you can receive the Pfizer vaccine if you’re under 18 and any of the three available vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J – if you’re over 18. For the second booster dose, you can receive Pfizer or Moderna. Talk to your doctor about whether you’re eligible for a booster.

Why Do We Need Another COVID-19 Shot?

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, especially in preventing severe cases of COVID-19 — and deaths.

However, data suggest that protection from the vaccines may decrease over time. An additional shot can help maintain or improve your immune system’s protection against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.

Also, research shows that some people don’t have a strong immune reaction to the initial doses of the vaccine. That’s the case for many immunocompromised people, such as organ transplant recipients.

When Can I Get the Additional COVID-19 Shot?

In line with the FDA’s and CDC’s announcements, UPMC is currently offering additional and booster doses for people who are eligible.

If you are eligible and would like to schedule an appointment for an additional dose, visit Vaccine.UPMC.com or call 844-876-2822 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

You must have an appointment to get an additional dose of the vaccine. We are not offering additional doses on a walk-in basis.

On the day of your appointment, please bring your CDC vaccination card.

Do I Still Need to Wear a Mask?

The vaccine represents a crucial step in preventing COVID-19. However, masking and social distancing also can provide important protection — especially if you’re immunocompromised.

After getting an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should continue to follow any laws, regulations, or guidelines about wearing a facemask. The CDC recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear a mask and physically distance while in public in areas with high rates of transmission.

At UPMC, we strongly encourage people who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get vaccinated. Americans 5 and older are eligible to get the vaccine. For more information on the vaccine, visit UPMC.com/COVIDVaccine.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

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