Should I get a second COVID-19 booster?

A second booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine is now recommended in some cases. But there are still questions about how much they help, who qualifies and when we should get them.

Find the answers and handy links in this blog.

Who is Eligible for a Second Booster?

Those eligible for a second COVID-19 booster at least four months after their first booster dose include:

  • People ages 50 years and older
  • People ages 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised
  • People ages 18 years and older who received J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine as both a primary and a booster dose

Among those eligible for a second booster dose, the following people may especially consider getting a second booster dose four months after their first booster dose:

  • People with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 disease
  • People living with someone who is immunocompromised, at increased risk for severe disease, or who cannot be vaccinated due to age or contraindication
  • People at increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, such as through occupational, institutional, or other activities (e.g., travel or large gatherings)
  • People who live or work in or near an area where the COVID-19 community level is medium or high or are traveling to such an area

Eligible people who may consider waiting to receive a second booster dose include:

  • People who have had a SARS-CoV-2 infection within the last 3 months
  • People who may be hesitant about getting another recommended booster dose in the future, as a booster dose may be more important in the fall and/or if a variant-specific vaccine is needed

Dr. Jason Bowling answers some common questions about booster shots. Read his answers below.

Should I stick with the same shot that was in my first booster, or is it okay to mix and match those the way it was okay to mix and match the first booster with the primary series?

In general, all doses of a primary series and the additional primary dose for those who are immunocompromised should be completed with the same vaccine type. For the first booster dose, there appears to be a slight advantage of mixing the mRNA vaccines based on antibody measurements, however, receiving the same vaccine type is also recommended.

Current CDC guidance allows for mixing booster doses, as both mRNA vaccine doses are effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death. The situation is different for those who received a J&J vaccine initially. Those people should get mRNA boosters.

How much protection do boosters give when we have all these variants?

Right now the variants we are dealing with are subvariants of Omicron, so the vaccines are still providing significant protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

By being boosted, you’re likely to do yourself a favor when it comes to protection against lesser, but still serious, COVID-19 issues. Being less sick for a shorter amount of time means less missed work, less isolation and less likelihood of experiencing the debilitating effects associated with long COVID-19.

I’ve had COVID-19. Do I still benefit from getting a booster?

Yes. While having the COVID-19 infection does confer some natural immunity, that immunity can vary greatly from person to person, and we don’t have a good way to measure it. So it’s not a good idea to rely completely on natural immunity to protect us.

However, we do see a measurable amount of protection, especially from severe disease, with the boosters. So a person who has had the infection and a booster probably has more protection against future reinfection.

How long should I wait after having COVID-19 for my booster?

If you’ve had a COVID-19 infection, the CDC recommends waiting for at least three months before getting a booster shot. This gives your body time to incorporate the immune response that it creates against the infection itself, and to recover fully so that it can mount the most effective response to the vaccine.

But most health experts agree that, while a second booster is good, if more people would get their first booster it would go further to protect them and others.

That first booster – or third shot for those who have had an initial two-dose series – has been shown to provide significantly more protection against the current variant than just the original two-dose series or a single dose of J&J.

What if I got the J&J? Is it any good after all?

Because of a risk of a rare but serious blood clot syndrome (about four cases for every million doses given) associated with the J&J/Janssen vaccine, the CDC recommends the use of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, which have shown greater effectiveness and no evidence of the syndrome.

However, the J&J vaccines still provide effective protection against COVID-19 hospitalization and death. To put it in perspective, they are more effective against COVID-19 than the average flu shot is against influenza during most years. For people who don’t want an mRNA vaccine or have trouble getting access to them, it remains a viable option.

If you received the J&J, vaccine, the CDC recommends you get an mRNA vaccine booster because of the increased effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines. For people who are 18 years and older and moderately or severely immunocompromised who received the J&J vaccine, the CDC recommends a second dose of an mRNA vaccine and then an mRNA booster for a total of three doses.

Get a COVID-19 vaccine at University Health

University Health is offering free COVID-19 vaccines at our pharmacies. No appointment is needed.

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