- Booster shots are available for various at-risk groups, including older adults, individuals who are immunocompromised, people with underlying health conditions, and people whose jobs increase their chances of being exposed to the coronavirus.
- The vaccines remain highly effective at preventing severe illness along with hospitalization and death.
- Booster shots are routinely given to provide longer-lasting protection against many other infectious diseases.
People who have received the Johnson & Johnson shot or both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna shots are still considered fully vaccinated in the United States, even with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent authorization of booster doses for select groups.
Booster shots are available for various at-risk groups, including older adults, immunocompromised individuals, those with underlying health conditions, and people whose jobs increase their chances of being exposed to the coronavirus.
The vaccines remain highly effective at preventing severe illness along with hospitalization and death.
Health officials evaluating the durability of the vaccines suspect that though protection against severe illness remains strong, protection against infection and mild illness may wane over time.
Booster shots are routinely given to provide longer-lasting protection against many other infectious diseases.
Because the coronavirus mutates, some infectious diseases specialists suspect annual boosters targeting circulating variants may eventually be recommended.
“To date, to be considered fully vaccinated requires two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or alternatively one dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. At this time, the booster shots are not required for individuals to be classified fully vaccinated,” says Phil Felgner, PhD, the director of the Vaccine Research and Development Center at the University of California in Irvine.
People who received the Johnson & Johnson shot or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose, even without a booster shot.
Boosters were recently authorized by the FDA for
“A booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine needed to ‘boost’ your immunity and give you better protection from disease,” says Dr. Joseph Iser, a regent-at-large for the American College of Preventive Medicine.
Boosters are given with many other vaccinations against infectious diseases, including chickenpox, tetanus, measles, mumps, and rubella, to provide longer-lasting protection.
Felgner says the immunity conferred from the COVID-19 vaccines is very durable.
Hospitalization rates are 10 to 22 times higher among unvaccinated people than vaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We have followed people who received mRNA vaccines [such as Pfizer or Moderna] for about 6 months so far. The immune response is durable, declining by only about 10 percent from the peak,” Felgner said.
As the coronavirus continues to mutate, there may be a future need for booster shots specifically tweaked to attack new variants.
Felgner says evidence suggests an annual booster — similar to shots for the influenza strains each year — may eventually be recommended for COVID-19.
“Boosters do not mean that you are not fully vaccinated but are recommended to give an extra ‘boost’ to your immunity,” says Iser.
People who have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still considered fully vaccinated, even with the FDA’s recent authorization of booster doses for select groups. Evidence suggests protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death remains strong, but protection against acquiring the virus and experiencing mild illness may wane over time. Health experts say annual boosters, similar to what’s given for influenza, may be recommended for COVID-19 in the future.