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FAQs: COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Doses for Adults and Adolescents

A senior citizen after receiving a booster shot.

Booster doses are now available to all fully vaccinated recipients ages 16 and older who received one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccine booster doses.

Who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster dose?

Booster doses are authorized for fully vaccinated Pfizer/Comirnaty, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients who are 12 years old or older. At this time, booster doses are not recommended for anyone younger than 12 years. However, a third/additional dose of the Pfizer vaccine is recommended for immunocompromised individuals age 5 and older at least four weeks after receiving the initial two doses.

When should I get a COVID-19 booster dose?

If you received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are eligible for a booster dose two months following the initial dose.

If you received a Pfizer/Comirnaty vaccine for your primary series (generally your initial two shots), you are eligible for a booster   dose five months after your second shot.

If you received a Moderna vaccine for your primary series (generally your initial two shots), you are eligible for a booster   dose six months after your second shot.

If you are an immunocompromised patient who received an additional (third) dose of Pfizer/Comirnaty vaccine as part of your primary series, you are eligible for a booster dose five  months after receiving the additional dose. If you are an immunocompromised patient who received an additional (third) dose Moderna vaccine as part of your primary series, you are eligible for a booster dose six months after receiving the additional dose. (For both Pifzer and Moderna vaccine recipients, your additional primary series dose would have been given at least four weeks after your  second dose.)

Can I get a booster dose of a different vaccine than I initially received?

It depends on your age. If you are 12-17 years old, you are only eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Adult recipients, ages 18 and older, may choose which vaccine to receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix- and- match dosing for booster shots for adults. This approach does not apply to the primary series. Both doses of the two-dose primary series must be from the same vaccine product.

I am 18 or older. Which vaccine should I get for my booster?

A new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorses the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The endorsement followed a thorough review of the latest evidence on vaccine effectiveness and safety. Most patients should now consider an mRNA primary vaccine series or booster dose due to the remarkable safety and efficacy of these vaccines. Individuals who are unable to receive an mRNA vaccine or would prefer not to receive an mRNA vaccine will continue to have access to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

What’s the difference between a “primary series,” an “additional” dose, and a “booster” dose?

A primary series is generally an initial two-dose series of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. An additional dose is given after an initial primary series to people who likely did not have a protective immune response to the initial vaccination. An additional mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose is recommended as part of the primary series for moderately and severely immunocompromised people who receive an mRNA vaccine. A booster dose is given to people who have received a primary series. The intent is to boost immunity because protection is likely to have waned over time.

Who is eligible for a third/additional dose of an mRNA vaccine? Does this include immunocompromised children?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines require two doses for full effectiveness for most people. For a very small percentage of people age 5 years and older who are immunocompromised, a third/additional dose of mRNA vaccine is now recommended at least four weeks after the second dose. This recommendation applies to people who have moderately or severely weakened immune systems and may have insufficient response to a two-dose vaccine regimen. The additional dose is for people with conditions  or undergoing treatments that may cause moderate to severe immune system compromise and therefore a weaker initial response. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Active treatment for a solid-tumor cancer or a blood, bone marrow, or lymph cancer.
  • Receipt of a solid organ transplant and use of related immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Receipt within the past two years of a CAR-T-cell transplant or taking related immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Receipt within the past two years of a hematopoietic stem cell (bone marrow) transplant or taking related immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency.
  • Advanced or untreated HIV.
  • Active treatment with any of the following:
    • High-dose corticosteroids.
    • Alkylating agents.
    • Antimetabolites.
    • Transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs.
    • Chemotherapy treatments classified as severely immunosuppressive.
    • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers.
    • A biologic agent that is immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.

At this time, those third/additional doses are recommended for recipients of the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines (Pfizer/Comirnaty and Moderna).

I’m immunocompromised and received an additional dose. Am I also eligible for a booster dose?

If you are 12 years or older, you also are eligible for a single COVID-19 booster dose at least five months after completing the third/additional mRNA vaccine dose. Currently there is no booster recommendation for individuals younger than 12 years of age.

If we need booster doses, does this mean the COVID-19 vaccines are no longer effective?

No. The COVID-19 vaccines continue to be remarkably effective at reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, and continue to offer protection against variants. Protection against severe illness and death was the original goal of vaccines. A booster dose could help fully vaccinated people at greater risk maintain the highest protection over time, and initial data suggests that boosters help broaden and strengthen protection against Omicron and other variants. People who received their initial vaccine series six months ago may now have diminished neutralizing antibodies against Omicron. Receiving a timely booster dose when you are eligible restores those antibody levels and provides significant protection. 

Where can I get a booster dose?

With thousands of enrolled COVID-19 vaccine providers in Ohio, there are many opportunities to be vaccinated in your community, whether you walk in to get your booster dose or make an appointment with a nearby provider. Many pharmacies, federally qualified health centers, doctor’s offices, community vaccination sites, and local health departments offer booster doses. There is ample supply of vaccine for boosters, as well as first and second doses.

You can visit the following types of providers to be vaccinated:

  • Long-term care facility or congregate living residents and staff – Facilities are administering vaccines to residents and staff; specifically, nursing homes and assisted living facilities use Ohio’s COVID-19 Vaccine Maintenance Program, and state-owned institutional settings and veterans homes are vaccinating eligible staff and residents.
  • Other eligible Ohioans – Find a provider and schedule an appointment at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.
    • Most pharmacies offer either walk-in or scheduled appointments.
    • Local health departments in some of our largest cities offer special community vaccination sites, and health departments in virtually every county are prepared to offer booster doses, including to homebound individuals.
    • Community health centers and participating primary care providers also offer booster doses.
    • Some hospitals and physicians networks offer booster doses.

Do I have to get my booster at the same place where I received the original vaccine series? What if it isn’t open anymore?

No, you do not need to visit the same vaccine provider for your booster dose. Some providers, such as the Wolstein Center mass vaccination site, are not in operation for booster doses. Eligible Ohioans who are not being vaccinated in a long-term care or work setting can choose to receive their COVID-19 at any vaccine provider statewide. To find a provider near you, visit gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-427-5634.

Do I need to bring my COVID-19 vaccine card to my appointment? What if I lost it?

Ohioans are encouraged to bring their existing COVID-19 vaccine card to be updated. If you cannot find your vaccine card, you should first contact your original vaccine provider to see if they can locate your records. If they are unable to assist, please contact your local health department. If they are unable to assist, please review this information on how to mail a request for your vaccination records to the Ohio Department of Health. You will not be able to obtain a new vaccine card by request, but will be able to access your vaccination records. If you do not have your card, you can still get your booster dose.

Are booster doses for the Pfizer or the Comirnaty vaccine?

Comirnaty is another name for the fully approved Pfizer vaccine. They are two names for the same product.

Updated Jan 05, 2022.

For additional information, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov. For answers to your COVID-19 questions, call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1- 833-427-5634).

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you or a loved one are experiencing anxiety related to the coronavirus pandemic, help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call the COVID-19 CareLine at 1-800-720-9616.