- Written by Lisa White, PhD, RN
- Published: November 12, 2021
The information in this article is from the CDC and was current as of November 5, 2021.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, its first such designation since declaring H1N1 influenza a pandemic in 2009. While we are all weary from living within this devastating health crisis, there is also much to be hopeful about, including the development of three highly effective vaccines and the granting of Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S. for their use. Completion of primary vaccination is the most important goal for addressing the pandemic in the United States and around the world.
At this time, most people in the United States over the age of 5 can receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
People 65 years and older SHOULD get a booster shot.
The CDC notes that COVID-19 vaccines continue to be very effective at reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection, especially among certain populations, against mild and moderate disease. A third dose of mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) is now recommended as part of the primary series of vaccination for some individuals with compromised immune systems. A “booster” shot, an additional shot to counter waning effectiveness of the primary series over time, is now also recommended to people who belong to certain groups.
Everyone 18 and over who received the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is now recommended to receive a booster dose at least two months after the first shot.
Certain individuals who received either Pfizer-BioNTech’s or Moderna’s two vaccine primary series are now eligible to receive a booster shot at least 6 months after the second shot:
- People 65 years and older SHOULD get a booster shot.
- Residents of long-term care settings SHOULD get a booster shot.
- People aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions SHOULD get a booster shot.
- People aged 18-49 years with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for severe infection, including pregnancy, MAY get a booster shot based on individual risks and benefits.
- People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their occupational or institutional setting MAY get a booster shot based on individual risks and benefits. This category includes workers such as first responders and health care workers, education staff, manufacturing workers, food and agriculture workers, corrections workers, U.S. Postal workers, public transit workers, and grocery store workers.
The CDC recommendation for boosters allows a mix and match approach, meaning people recommended to have a booster can receive any of the three booster formulas. Considerations of risk, effectiveness, and preference differ based on individual circumstance. The CDC website is a source for information to assist decision-making. If unsure, discuss with your doctor the risks and benefits of receiving one booster over another.
The above recommendations were made following a process of review conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged with protecting the public’s health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of vaccines, drugs, and other biological products for human use. These recommendations may change in future as more data become available. Votes of the advisory committee result in a recommendation from the FDA that then goes to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC for final review, communication of clinical guidelines, and model physician orders for the administration of vaccines.
Where can we get a recommended booster? A good place to start is with your own primary care physician's office. Most pharmacies offer vaccination—more so now than at any time before this pandemic. Most appointments have moved to an online system, with an appointment confirmation sent via email. While not everyone has easy access to the internet, for most people it's actually a very efficient way to sign up, get in, and get your vaccine, providing you a particular time at a place of your choice. Many sites are linked and kept updated at vaxfinder.mass.gov.
Community and mobile clinics are another avenue. Ten regionally-located mobile VaxBus clinics, scheduled from November 12 to December 3, will offer the primary course of vaccine to children ages 5-11. These VaxBus clinics will also serve other vaccine groups—children over 12, parents, caregivers, and adults in the community are also able to register and receive their primary course vaccine. Eligible adults will be able to receive a booster shot. A full list of clinics is available online at www.franklincountymavaccine.org.
No matter where you go to get your vaccine, bring the vaccination card you received that documents your primary series shot/s to your appointment.
For people who cannot use the internet, call your local Board of Health/health department, town nurse, senior center, or LifePath for help. We are here to make sure anyone who is eligible is able to access and receive a vaccine.
Lisa White, PhD, RN is a Public Health Nurse with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ Cooperative Public Health Service which serves 16 Franklin County Towns.