Person wearing face mask cotton gauze over upper arm after receiving vaccine 1Share on Pinterest
Dimensions/Getty Images

“Fully vaccinated,” at least in the context of COVID-19, means you have received all the vaccine doses recommended for someone in your demographic.

Getting all of your vaccine doses gives you the most up-to-date protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It’s also necessary if you plan to travel to certain places.

That said, vaccination criteria vary significantly by country.

The U.S. government considers you fully vaccinated if you’ve received two primary vaccine doses and one of the updated booster shots. But because the updated booster shots are so new, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t have data yet on how many people are fully vaccinated, according to this criteria.

Here’s a quick primer to help you figure out if you and your family are fully vaccinated or not.

In the United States, vaccine recommendations vary by your age, vaccine type, and health status. You can get one of four vaccines:

Primary series

The CDC recommends everyone receive a primary series of vaccines. This set of vaccines was developed from the original strain of the virus and offers broad protection against SARS-CoV-2.

You typically have to wait 3 to 8 weeks between doses so your body can adapt to each one. You must get all the doses in the set — between one and three doses, depending on the vaccine type —in order to complete the series.

Experts recommend getting all of your primary doses from the same set — if you received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, you’ll typically receive Pfizer for all of your primary doses.

Booster dose

Once you’ve finished your primary series, you may be eligible for a booster shot. Most people receive either a Pfizer or Moderna booster. A Johnson & Johnson booster does exist, but it’s generally reserved for adults who can’t take mRNA vaccines. Novavax has no booster available.

The two kinds of booster shots include:

  • Original monovalent boosters: These only contain mRNA for the original SARS-CoV-2 strain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer and Moderna’s original boosters in fall 2021.
  • Updated bivalent boosters: These contain mRNA for both the original strain and the Omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5. The FDA approved Pfizer and Moderna’s updated boosters in late August 2022.

The CDC considers people ages 12 and up fully vaccinated if they’ve received one of the updated bivalent boosters. In other words, if you got one of the original booster shots, you’ll want to get the newer one as soon as you can.

Your booster dose doesn’t need to match your primary vaccine. In other words, you can get a Pfizer or Moderna booster if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or a Moderna booster if you received Pfizer vaccines for your primary doses.

What about immunocompromised people?

Being immunocompromised means you have a weaker immune system than most people. This could happen due to a health condition or as a side effect of certain medications. Being immunocompromised not only puts you at greater risk of disease, but it may also lower your body’s response to vaccines.

If you’re moderately or severely immunocompromised, you might need to take an extra dose of your primary vaccine series in order to get full protection. Naturally, this extends the total time it takes to get fully vaccinated.

Still, if you’re over 12 years of age, the waiting period between your last primary dose and your booster shot is still just 2 months, and you only need one dose of the updated booster.

Depending on your health condition, a healthcare professional may also prescribe Evusheld, a drug that provides you with antibodies if you have trouble making your own. However, this drug doesn’t affect your vaccination status at all.

The CDC’s recommended vaccine schedule for each age group:

Age group# of primary series dosesBoostersWhen are you fully vaccinated?Age group
6 months to 4 years3 Pfizer doses
2 Moderna doses
Not available2 weeks after final primary dose13-18 weeks for Pfizer
6-10 weeks for Moderna
5-11 years2 Pfizer doses
2 Moderna doses
Original Pfizer booster only
Wait 5 months after final primary Moderna dose
Immediately after receiving Pfizer booster
2 weeks after final primary Moderna dose
6-7 months for Pfizer
6-10 weeks for Moderna
12-17 years2 Pfizer doses
2 Moderna doses
2 Novavax doses
Updated Pfizer booster only
Wait 2 months after final primary Moderna dose or last booster
Immediately after receiving updated Pfizer booster3-4 months
18+ years2 Pfizer doses
2 Moderna doses
2 Novavax doses
1 J&J dose
Updated Pfizer or Moderna booster
Wait 2 months after final primary dose or last booster
Immediately after receiving updated Pfizer or Moderna booster3-4 months for Pfizer, Moderna, or Novavax
2 months for J&J

As of April 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) has accepted nine vaccines:

Vaccine approval table

Not all countries have approved the same vaccines.

This table shows which vaccines are approved in certain countries, as well as which countries have approved the latest bivalent vaccines for Omicron BA.4/BA.5.

Pfizer BA.4/BA.5 Booster YesNoNoYesNoNoNo
Moderna BA.4/BA.5 BoosterYesYesNoNoNoNoNo
Johnson & JohnsonYesYesYesYesYesNoYes

Each vaccine’s number of required doses stays consistent across countries. For example, a primary series of Novavax will require two doses in every nation that allows that vaccine.

Vaccine status table

While all the above countries encourage people to get booster shots, not all of them require boosters for full vaccination. In addition, the process of proving your vaccination status varies.

Keep in mind, too, that vaccination rules for travelers may differ from vaccination rules for citizens. For instance, foreign visitors to the United States must complete a primary vaccine series at least 2 weeks before entering the country. You’ll need to submit proof of vaccination at the airport, ship port, or border checkpoint when you enter the United States.

Here’s a table of each country’s rules:

CountryBooster required?Proof of vaccination
United StatesYesThe physical vaccine card is valid in every state. Each state also has its own digital records for vaccination status.
There’s a national Canadian vaccine card, but some provinces and territories also have their own cards.
United KingdomYesEach country has their own digital vaccination app.
European UnionDepends on the country. For example, Italy and France require it, but Portugal doesn’t.The EU Digital COVID Certificate can be used across member nations.
AustraliaYesAustralia uses a national digital certificate.
YesChina has a digital vaccine passport for both domestic and international travel.
IndiaNoIndia issues national COVID-19 vaccine certificates via the Co-WIN portal.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, your vaccination status does not affect your ability to leave or enter the United States or travel domestically.

When planning to travel abroad, however, it’s wise to check the country’s vaccination requirements before you depart. You don’t want to fly across the globe only to be turned away at the border because you haven’t completed your vaccination series. Some countries, like Canada, require full vaccination at least 2 weeks in advance, so it helps to plan ahead.

If you lose your vaccine card before your trip, you have two options for getting proof of vaccination.

One option involves contacting the clinic or pharmacy where you received the vaccine to ask for another card.

Your other option involves contacting your state health department’s immunization information system, or IIS. They can’t replace your card, but they can give you a copy of your vaccination record. This lists all the vaccines you’ve had, not just the COVID-19 vaccines.

The many benefits of receiving all of your COVID-19 vaccine doses include:

Worry-free travel

When you’ve received all vaccines and any boosters you’re eligible for, you’ll meet the entry criteria for virtually any country you want to visit. You won’t have to worry about losing valuable time and money trying to sort out paperwork at the border, which can make the whole travel process smoother.

Improved protection from the most common COVID-19 strains

The original vaccines offer general protection against COVID-19. The updated booster shots refresh these broad defenses, but they also provide targeted protection against the Omicron strains BA.4 and BA.5.

Why does this matter? Well, as of mid-September 2022, those two strains cause more than 80% of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States.

Lower odds of developing long COVID

A 2022 study compared participants who received two Pfizer doses and the original Pfizer booster to an unvaccinated reference group.

After the first dose, participants’ risk of long COVID was 86%. After the second dose, this risk dropped to 25%. After the third dose, their risk dropped to 14%.

Other factors most likely come into play — for instance, the unvaccinated reference group was made up entirely of women, and the researchers found that men appeared to have an overall lower risk of developing long COVID.

Even so, their findings do suggest that each additional vaccine dose offers further protection, though experts don’t yet know how the bivalent booster will affect long COVID risk.

Protecting your loved ones from contagion

Vaccination doesn’t only benefit you — it also helps protect the people around you.

COVID-19 vaccinations restrict how much the SARS-CoV-2 virus can replicate in your body. If your body has less virus in it, then you’re less likely to pass the virus on to co-workers, friends, or family.


A 2022 study considered workers who had already completed a primary Pfizer series and were scheduled to get the original Pfizer booster.

Just 5 weeks after they received the booster, SARS-CoV-2 transmission among them decreased by 93%.

In the United States, most people need two primary doses and one updated booster before qualifying as fully vaccinated. Other countries have their own vaccine requirements, so check ahead before you travel.

Vaccines help protect you, your loved ones, and members of your community from severe COVID-19 symptoms. They also lower your changes of experiencing long-term symptoms and damage from the virus.

You can find COVID-19 vaccine providers near you at

Emily Swaim is a freelance health writer and editor who specializes in psychology. She has a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she received her Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) certification. You can find more of her work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.