Updated October 22, 2021, please review for the latest booster dose guidance

Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of routine immunizations in the entire United States. Vaccines for measles and whooping cough and meningitis protect us every day. And many of those vaccines require a booster dose to make sure that we stay protected.

The COVID vaccines are doing much of the same work as those other vaccines. They protect us from catching COVID-19, they keep it milder if we do catch it, and they keep people from dying. New research has shown that, over time, COVID vaccines might need a booster, too.

On October 22, 2021, the CDC updated their recommendations for COVID vaccine booster doses.

Who should get a booster dose?

People who are recommended to get booster doses should have received their second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago and are either:

  1. 65 or older or live in a nursing home, or
  2. Are aged 50-64 with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

The CDC also said that some other higher-risk people should consider getting a booster dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months after their second dose. These people include:

  1. People who are age 18 to 49 who have underlying medical conditions, including pregnancy, and
  2. People who work in higher-risk jobs like healthcare workers, teachers, or in other higher-risk occupational or institutional settings.

Separately, some people with certain immunosuppressing conditions who were vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna should get an additional dose four weeks after their second dose.

People who got Johnson & Johnson’s single dose vaccine are still considered fully vaccinated but should get a booster dose two months after their shot. There is some evidence that getting a Moderna booster after a Johnson & Johnson dose may be more protective than getting a second Johnson &Johnson dose.

The CDC has recommended that people who are eligible for a booster dose can receive a booster of any brand of vaccine. If you have questions about which brand might be best for you, talk with your regular healthcare provider.

Yes, this is confusing. Here’s a chart to help explain the situation. Check the column of the vaccine you got for recommendations on if you should get a booster dose or not. And if you haven’t gotten your vaccine yet, go get it today!

COVID vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your family. They are the best way to avoid being hospitalized or dying. They are the best way to help end this pandemic. If you’re eligible for a booster dose, get it. If you’re eligible for a vaccine, get it.

Q: What is a booster?

A: A booster is an additional dose of vaccine that helps your body’s immune system to be ready in case you get exposed to a particular disease, like COVID. Many vaccines that we get throughout our lives require booster doses. Most people know they need to get a tetanus shot every once in a while; the Tdap vaccine you’ll get is a booster. It helps your body’s immune system to be ready in case you get exposed to tetanus.

Q: Why do I need a COVID booster dose?

A: Right now, not everyone needs a COVID booster dose. Some studies have shown that the COVID vaccine can become less effective in some people over time. Older people are at a greater risk of getting severe COVID, being admitted to the hospital because of COVID, and dying from COVID, so it’s important that their protection is as good as it can be. Booster doses help your body’s immune system to be ready in case you get exposed to COVID and can help keep a case of COVID from becoming severe.

Q: Where can I get a COVID booster dose?

A: Booster doses are available wherever Pfizer vaccine is available. Check www.phila.gov/vaccine or www.vaccines.gov or call 215-685-5488 to find the nearest vaccine clinic.

Q: What side effects should I expect if I get a COVID booster dose?

A: We would anticipate that the side effects from booster doses would be similar to those from the initial vaccine doses. We will be watching the data and literature closely for any reports of worsening side effects, but typically boosters elicit similar reactions to those of the primary series of a vaccine.

Q: Does it cost anything to get a COVID booster?

A: There is no cost to get a booster dose of COVID vaccine. You will not be charged a copay or administration fee. If you have insurance, your provider may charge your insurance company, but you shouldn’t have to pay anything when you get your dose.

Q: Do I need to show ID to get a COVID booster?

A: No, but you do need to show your vaccine card or a photo of your vaccine card on your phone to verify that you received your second dose of Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago. If you have lost your vaccine card, you can request your full vaccine record by visiting https://bit.ly/philavaxrecordrequest. People who have laminated their vaccine card can still use it! If you go to a City clinic, our staff will place a sticker to show that you have received your booster dose directly on the laminate. Many clinics will be able to replace your card altogether.

Q: Do I need a booster to be considered fully vaccinated?

A: No, since not everyone will need a booster shot. Having your first and second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, means you’re fully vaccinated.

Q: Does this mean that the vaccine has been less effective in general and against Delta?

A: Many other vaccines require booster doses to maintain maximum effectiveness has immunity can naturally wane over time. It is unknown if waning effectiveness is a natural phenomenon or related to the Delta variant.