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Ask Miss Rona: COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots

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Ask Miss Rona is a Q&A series started on Public Health’s Instagram to respond to community questions related to different topic areas of COVID-19. Questions come in from the public and are answered by subject matter experts at Public Health. Check out our Instagram at @kcpubhealth for more of our Miss Rona content.

If the vaccine is safe and effective why do we need a booster?

Great question. The COVID-19 vaccines have been very effective in providing important protection for most people from severe illness, long COVID, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.

But the protection from the vaccine can decrease over time, especially among older people. With the highly contagious Delta variant spreading, people who are at high-risk can maximize protection with a booster shot.

I got fully vaccinated in May. Do I need to wait for my turn to get the booster or can I get it right now?

It depends whether you fall into one of the eligible groups!

All people 18+ who receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster dose two months after their initial vaccination.

For people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, the CDC recommends that the following people get a booster shot:

  • 65 years and older
  • 18+ and live in a long-term care facility
  • 50–64 with certain underlying medical conditions

You may also consider getting a booster shot if you’re in one of the groups listed below, depending on your individual risk factors:

  • 18+ who live or work in high-risk settings
  • 18–49 with certain underlying medical conditions

If you’re not currently eligible for the booster, hang tight! You are very well protected by your initial vaccine series, even in the face of variants like Delta.

Will all adults eventually be eligible for booster shots?

Right now, there’s not enough data to support booster shots for the entire population. Additional populations may be recommended to receive a booster shot as more data become available. But at this time, only those approved groups are eligible. However, if you feel you have a higher risk, please talk with your regular health care provider or call the COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977.

Is one vaccine better than the others as a booster if you got the J&J?

A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently found that following up the J&J shot with either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine could produce a stronger immune response than a second dose of J&J’s vaccine. Research from Europe has shown similar evidence. 

Additionally, women under age 50 should understand the rare but very serious risk of clotting with the use of J&J. Talk to your vaccination provider about getting a Moderna or Pfizer booster.

If you have questions about which booster you should get, speak to your health care provider or call the COVID-19 Call Center at 206-477-3977.

Can I request the Moderna booster because I originally got the Moderna vaccine?

Yes! You can definitely request Moderna if you originally got the Moderna series.

You can also “mix and match” if you have a preference for a different COVID-19 booster than the initial vaccine (for example, getting a Moderna booster after the J&J vaccine).

People who are eligible can get a booster shot with any available COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether they received the J&J, Moderna, or Pfizer vaccine for their initial dose(s).

How long do I have to wait after having recovered from COVID to get the booster?

You should wait until you have recovered from COVID-19, no longer have symptoms, and are no longer in isolation: about 10 days for most people and about 20 days if you are immunocompromised.

If you have fully received from COVID-19, you feel well, are no longer in isolation, and are eligible for the booster, you should get your booster whenever it is convenient for you.

If you were treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Why is natural immunity not part of this conversation? Seems better than boosters.

Current recommendations are that people with prior COVID-19 infection should still receive COVID-19 vaccination. This is because natural immunity, and the strength of the protection, varies significantly from person to person. Plus, it’s unclear how long protection from natural immunity lasts. So, vaccination is the safer bet, whether you’ve had COVID or not.

A recent study of COVID patients hospitalized in nine states found that people who had COVID but are not vaccinated still have five times the risk of getting COVID-19 and having serious illness.

Where can I get my booster?! I’m ready.

Booster shots are available at all King County vaccination sites. You can find a list of sites at All King County sites are ADA accessible and have language and ASL interpretation available. Most sites offer drop-in vaccination, no appointment needed. Questions? Call the King County COVID-19 Call Center: 206-477-3977, 8 a.m.–7 p.m. If you need language interpretation, please say your preferred language when connected.

Boosters are also available at many clinics, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies. You can use Washington State’s Vaccine Locator to find a vaccination site near you:

Booster shot vaccinations are free of charge at all locations.

Ask Miss Rona bannerPublic Health—Seattle & King County contributed this article, which was originally published in Public Health Insider on November 1, 2021.