Health Matters spoke with Dr. Pereira about the latest on who can receive a booster shot.
What has the FDA and CDC decided about COVID-19 booster shots, and why?
After the White House made the recommendation for booster shots, scientists from the FDA and CDC reviewed the data and confirmed that vaccine protection may decrease over time, putting the most vulnerable at risk for more severe infection.
For this reason — and because of the rise of the more contagious Delta variant — a booster shot is recommended for people who are at an increased risk.
For the general population who have healthy immune systems, antibodies, and what are known as memory B and T cells — cells that remember viruses and can quickly activate antibody formation when triggered — the research indicates that they are still very much protected by the vaccine they received. Booster shots are not recommended for the general population at this time.
It should be noted that the Moderna booster is only half the original dose. This is because the initial two doses of the Moderna vaccine were much higher comparatively speaking than the Pfizer, so individuals need only half a dose for boosting.
The CDC recommended some people “should” get the booster shot, while others “may” get it. Can you explain the breakdown
Yes, it’s interesting how the CDC worded their recommendation, but it boils down to this: The CDC recommends that people who are at least six months past getting their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should receive a booster shot if they are age 65 or older, or 18 years and older in long-term care settings like nursing homes, or 50 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions.
People who are at least six months past getting their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and 18 to 49 years old with underlying medical conditions and people 18 to 64 who are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure because of their occupation or where they work—for instance, healthcare or frontline workers—may receive a booster shot.
The CDC cites a long list of health conditions that place someone in a position to get a booster dose. Those include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic lung diseases like COPD, asthma, and cystic fibrosis
- Neurological conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Down syndrome
- Liver disease
- Heart conditions like coronary artery disease and hypertension
These are the categories — which include a substantial number of people — that the CDC authorizes to receive a booster. The complete list can be found here. Talk to your doctor about whether a booster shot would benefit you.
What about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
For the nearly 15 million people who received the J&J vaccine, the CDC recommends getting a booster shot if you are 18 and older and two months have past since you received the initial dose.
Can you mix and match vaccines?
The FDA and CDC now allow for a mix-and-match approach for booster doses. That means that those who are eligible to receive a booster shot have the option of getting any of the vaccines available for boosting. Data show that this is safe and effective and, in some cases, particularly in the case of the J&J vaccine, mixing and matching elicits a stronger immune response.
It is up to each individual to determine which type of vaccine to get as a booster shot. Speak to your doctor for more specific guidance.