September 24, 2021 – The FDA and CDC announced this week that certain populations at high risk of severe COVID-19 infection can now receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
You and your friends and family may have questions: Am I eligible? Where can I get a booster? Do I have to prove a high risk? Am I still fully vaccinated if I am entitled to a booster vaccination and not given one?
We summarize the most frequently asked questions about the updated Pfizer Booster Guidelines.
What are boosters?
A booster dose is an extra dose of the vaccine to protect you from illness; in this case COVID-19.
“Basically, boosters are exactly what the word says,” says Anita Gupta, DO, Associate Professor of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care and Pain Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“Boosters enable people to have an enhanced immune response.”
The extra dose of the vaccine is especially important for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems due to conditions like cancer, diabetes, or obesity as new variants have been discovered, says Gupta.
“There is a chance that the immune response from the two-dose series of vaccines may not be sufficient, especially in those who would be particularly vulnerable.
“So the goal is really to help these people when they may face new variants and to make sure they don’t have a weak immune response when faced with it.”
Who is Eligible for the Pfizer Booster?
Certain populations of people who have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine for 6 months or more can now receive a single booster dose of Pfizer in accordance with updated FDA approval guidelines for emergencies.
You cannot receive the Pfizer booster if you have received other COVID-19 vaccines like Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
You may be given a Pfizer booster if you have received the Pfizer vaccine and you belong to any of these groups:
- 65 years or older
- 18 years of age or older and at high risk for severe COVID-19
- If you work or live in a situation that puts you at high risk for severe COVID-19. For example, health workers, teachers, and people in prisons and shelters for the homeless.
See if you or someone you know is at high risk for severe COVID-19 here.
When can I expect a Pfizer booster if I have received another COVID-19 vaccine like Moderna or Johnson & Johnson?
The exact date is unknown, but it shouldn’t take too long as Moderna recently filed data with the FDA and Johnson & Johnson will follow suit shortly.
US surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, said Friday that getting booster vaccinations is a “high, high priority” for anyone, including those who originally received the Moderna or J&J vaccine.
William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, agrees that this should happen soon.
“I would hope to have information about these two vaccines within the next month to 6 weeks,” he says. “It will be one at a time. Each was treated separately. “
“I know it leads to some confusion, but this is how you have to do it because not all of the data was gathered at the same time.”
The very fact that Pfizer boosters are now available for certain high-risk populations is a big sign that boosters for other COVID-19 vaccines are not far away, says Eric Ascher, DO, a family doctor at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City .
“For me this is a strong indicator that they will soon be made available to the rest of the population,” he says.
Where can I get my Pfizer Booster and how much does it cost?
According to the CDC, you can get your booster vaccine at pharmacies, your doctor’s office, health departments, professional clinics, and federal programs.
“Over 70% of current COVID-19 administration” is in pharmacies, according to the CDC.
Boosters for all COVID-19 vaccines are completely free.
“All COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses, will be made available to the US population free of charge,” the CDC said Thursday.
Do I need to provide proof that I received the Pfizer vaccine before I get a Pfizer booster?
The short answer probably isn’t. But for your safety, it’s important to follow FDA guidelines and only get a Pfizer booster once you’ve received the Pfizer vaccine, Schaffner says.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorses the ACIP recommendation for a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech # COVID19 vaccine in certain populations and also recommended a booster dose for those in high-risk professional / institutional situations. See full explanation. https://t.co/X4HgVB4xJo
– CDC (@CDCgov) September 24, 2021
“That has already opened the door for people who have not been vaccinated with Pfizer and are very eager to get a refresher, to get a refresher. That is not recommended, ”he says.
“We always warn people that while this is unlikely, if you experience an adverse event, if you do it outside of the established recommendations, your insurance will not cover it.”
Do we need to show that we are at high risk due to an underlying medical condition, or live or work in a location that puts us at high risk for severe COVID-19, or that we are over 65 years of age?
It will work according to the honor system, says Schaffner. “In other words, you show up and say you are eligible, you won’t be asked, and the place, whether it’s a pharmacy or a vaccination center, will give you the refresher.
“This is the same procedure that we already use for people with immunodeficiency. All they have to do is come up and say, ‘I’m in a group with a weakened immune system’ and you get the third dose. “
Are boosters a full dose or a half dose of the Pfizer vaccine?
A Pfizer booster is a full dose of Pfizer vaccine, according to the FDA.
However, this may not be the same with other COVID-19 vaccine boosters.
“For example, the FDA is considering allowing a lower dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster than the dose given in the first two vaccinations,” says Gupta.
But you shouldn’t be too anxious about your booster dose.
“This is based on the composition of the vaccine and does not change the level of protection,” says Ascher.
If I am fully vaccinated but haven’t received a booster dose, will I still be considered fully vaccinated?
“Based on the current data, the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ would remain the same after the booster dose recommendations,” says the CDC.
A person is considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after completing the first series of vaccinations, e.g. B. two doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
It can be a little more complicated for immunocompromised people, says Gupta.
“For the sake of clarity, if you are immunocompromised, we’ll call your third shot a third dose. Third doses for immunocompromised people are now available. If you are not immunocompromised, a third shot is considered a booster.
“According to the CDC, people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 and may not build the same level of immunity to two-dose vaccine series as people who are not immunocompromised. This additional dose is intended to improve the response of immunocompromised people to their first series of vaccines. “
Will this be an annual refresher, like flu vaccines?
“We don’t know that yet,” says Schaffner. “We assume that because these boosters really take your antibody level to a very high level and raise it to a very high level, it would provide fairly extended protection. How long? Well we have to see.
“Remember, as time goes on, we will learn more about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccinations, so at the moment we cannot predict whether this will be an annual refresh or every 2 years or every 3 years. We just have to see. “
Do I have to expect the same side effects that I experienced when I received my starting doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?
According to the CDC, you may experience similar side effects such as arm pain, mild flu, body aches, and other common symptoms.
But don’t forget that everyone reacts differently to vaccines, says Ascher.
“I’ve had patients (as well as personal experiences) who had no to minimal symptoms and others who felt like they had mild flu for 24 hours,” he says.
“I don’t expect any major side effects than with your previous doses. The vaccine is very safe and the benefits of the vaccination outweigh the risks of minor side effects. “
For more information, please check the CDC and US Department of Health websites for updates on COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. You can also contact your doctor or other health care provider to learn more.
WebMD health news
Anita Gupta, DO, Associate Professor of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine and Pain Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Eric Ascher, MD, General Practitioner, Lenox Hill Hospital.
William Schaffner, MD, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University.
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