COVID-19 Booster Shots Explained: Vaccine Information

In this article...
  • Thinking about getting a COVID-19 booster shot, but want more information before you do? Consider these common vaccine questions and learn about the necessity, efficacy and availability of COVID-19 boosters.

The CDC recommends that everyone 18 years and older – and in some cases as young as five years old – get a COVID-19 vaccine and a booster shot.

In this guide, we answer some frequently asked questions and to give you an idea of what to expect when you receive your COVID-19 booster shot, including when you can get one and how to find a COVID-19 booster shot near you.

Why Should I Consider Getting A COVID-19 Booster Shot?

Booster shots are designed to remind your body’s immune system about the virus against which it must defend. This is important considering data from the CDC suggests we may experience reduced protection over time against mild COVID-19 infection.

What Are the Ingredients in the COVID-19 Booster Shots?

The COVID-19 booster shots use the same ingredients (formulation) as the current COVID-19 vaccines. The only caveat is that the dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is half the amount that people received for their primary series of Moderna vaccine shots.

You can view the ingreditents for the three main types of COVID-19 vaccines online:

When Am I Eligible to Receive a COVID-19 Booster Vaccine?

It depends on which COVID-19 vaccine you received for your primary series.

  • If you received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you’re eligible for a booster shot at least five months after you completed your primary COVID-19 vaccination series.
  • If you received Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine, you’re eligible for a booster shot at least two months after the vaccine.

Does My COVID-19 Booster Shot Need to Be the Same as My First Two COVID-19 Vaccines?

No. Your COVID-19 booster shot can be a Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson Janssen booster, regardless of which vaccine you received for your primary series.

If you had a severe reaction after getting a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine for your primary series – or if you have a severe allergy to an ingredient in either of these vaccines – it may be necessary to receive the Johnson & Johnson Janssen booster as your COVID-19 booster vaccine.

Talk to your doctor about which option is best for you based on your past medical history as well as known serious adverse side effects reported after COVID-19 vaccines.

How Do I Find a Booster Shot Near Me, and How Do I Schedule My Booster Shot?

It’s easy. Visit https://www.vaccines.gov, then click on “find COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.” Type in your zip code and specify a search radius as well as which type of vaccine you want.

You can also call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).

What Can I Expect When I Receive My Booster Shot?

When you arrive for your appointment, you’ll be asked to provide your COVID-19 vaccination record card. That’s because your provider will fill in information about your booster dose, including the manufacturer, lot number, date you receive the booster dos, and where you received it.

Next, your provider will ask you whether you had any side effects with your first two doses and in which arm you prefer to receive the vaccine. After you receive the vaccine, you may be asked to wait nearby for approximately 15 minutes to ensure you don’t have any adverse reactions to the booster shot.

If, after you get home, you start to experience side effects, be sure to report them to the CDC using v-safe. V-safe is smartphone-based tool that provides data to the CDC in near real-time. The tool also uses text messaging and web surveys to give personalized health check-ins after you receive the booster shot.

What If I Still Have Questions About Getting a COVID-19 Booster Shot?

Set up an in-person or telehealth appointment with your physician. Jot down some questions in advance to ask your doctor. Your doctor can best advise you based on your own unique health circumstances.

About the Author

Lisa Eramo is an independent health care writer whose work appears in the Journal of the American Health Information Management Association, Healthcare Financial Management Association, For The Record Magazine, Medical Economics, Medscape and more.

Lisa studied creative writing at Hamilton College and obtained a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University. She is a member of the American Health Information Management Association, American Academy of Professional Coders, Society of Professional Journalists, Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Lisa currently resides in Cranston, Rhode Island with her wife and two-year-old twin boys.

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