By Mary Kekatos, Acting U.S. Health Editor for DailyMail.com
What are COVID-19 vaccine boosters?
A booster shot is given at least six months after people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is meant to prolong immunity and give a ‘boost’ to the immune system to create higher levels of antibodies against the virus.
Is vaccine protection waning?
Not necessarily, although this topic is hotly debated.
Some people have weakened immune systems, either due to medical conditions or to age, that have left them unable to mount a full immune response to the first doses.
Some studies have found that vaccine protection does decrease after more than four months, which is common with several other immunizations.
However, health officials insist that vaccines are still highly effective against the most severe outcomes from COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.
Who is currently eligible?
Last month, boosters were authorized for Americans with compromised immune systems.
This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded that authorization to specific at-risk groups.
These include people aged 65 and older, long-term care facility residents and people aged 18 to 64 at high risk of severe COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory committee recommended that boosters not be for people at high risk due to their jobs or other factors, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky overruled this decision and sided with the FDA.
This means people who are at high-risk of severe illness due to their occupations – such as healthcare workers, teachers and grocery store employees – and those who live in institutional settings that increase their risk of exposure, such as prisons or homeless shelters, are also eligible.
Which COVID-19 vaccine booster can I get?
Right now, only recommended groups who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and were given their final shot at least six months ago, can get booster shots.
Pfizer’s booster shot is exactly the same – both ingredients-wise and dosage (30 micrograms) – as the first two doses.
What if I received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
Moderna has submitted an application to the FDA asking that its booster shot be authorized while Johnson & Johnson is expected to do so soon.
Because of this, recipients of either of these two vaccines are not eligible to receive boosters yet.
President Joe Biden said on Thursday that scientists are still examining data for boosters shots from the two companies.
‘Our doctors and scientists are working day and night to analyze the data from those two organizations on whether and when you need a booster shot, and we’ll provide updates for you as the process moves ahead,’ he said.
Can I mix and match?
Currently, federal health officials do not recommend getting a booster shot made by a different vaccine manufacturer than that of your initial doses.
This means that Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients are not recommended to get a booster dose from Pfizer and vice-versa.