Who needs a COVID-19 booster shot?

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A man receives a third Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from medical staff at a coronavirus vaccination center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. Israel is grappling with a surge of infections and urging people over age 60 to get a booster shot. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

(Baptist Health) – COVID-19 vaccines have been very good at keeping most fully vaccinated people out of the hospital. But that’s not always been the story for people with weakened immune systems.

Not only do they face a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, but their bodies may not mount as robust of an immune response to the vaccines. That leaves them more vulnerable to breakthrough infections.

That’s where booster shots come in. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends a third dose of mRNA vaccines for some people with weakened immune systems. Studies suggest the extra dose may help boost their protection.

Who needs a third shot?

About 3% of adults in the U.S. are moderately to severely immunocompromised. If you’re one of them, CDC recommends getting a booster shot if it has been at least 28 days since your second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. (CDC says they don’t have enough data yet to recommend a booster to people who got the Johnson & Johnson [J&J] vaccine. But they expect to know more about that soon.)

You may be eligible for a booster shot if you:

  • Are being treated for cancer.
  • Have a condition that lowers your immunity, such as advanced HIV.
  • Have had a stem cell transplant in the past two years.
  • Take high doses of steroid drugs.
  • Take other drugs that suppress your immune system, including after an organ transplant.

If you’re not sure if you should get a booster shot, talk to your doctor.

What about everyone else?

While the vaccines have been effective against severe illness so far, there is some concern that their protection may fade over time. So U.S. health officials have also announced preliminary plans to roll out COVID-19 booster shots to the general public this fall.

If the plan is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC:

  • The first shots would be ready by Sept. 20.
  • You would be eligible for a booster shot eight months after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. That means the first to be eligible would include many healthcare workers, nursing home residents and seniors who were vaccinated last winter.
  • Those who got the J&J vaccine will also likely be eligible for a booster shot at some point.

If you have questions about what’s right for you, talk with your doctor. You can learn more about all three vaccines in our Coronavirus topic center.

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