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6 questions about COVID-19 booster shots

A standing woman smiles down at a seated man.

The rollout of booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines might naturally raise some questions. Here's a closer look at some things you might want to know if you're weighing your options.

Q. Who is eligible?

A. Boosters are aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the vaccine.

People 16 and older who received the Pfizer vaccine are eligible six months after their initial series, as are all adults who received the Moderna vaccine.

Everyone 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine is eligible two months after their initial shot.

Q. Who needs a booster shot?

A. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone eligible should get a booster.

Q. How soon can I get a shot?

A. Booster shots are available now at most pharmacies and vaccines clinics across the country. Check your local pharmacy or clinic to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins may be welcome too.

Q. What are the expected side effects from a third shot?

A. In trials, the side effects of the booster shot were the same as the first two doses of the vaccine. That included things like:
  • Pain in the injection area.
  • Joint and muscle pain.
  • Headache.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea.

Q. Will I still be considered fully vaccinated if I don’t get a booster shot?

A. Yes, for now. CDC says everyone who has received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the J&J vaccine is still considered fully vaccinated. That guidance may evolve over time.

Q. Can I mix and match vaccines?

A. Yes. If you're an adult, your booster does not have to be the same as the vaccine you originally received. You can stick with the same vaccine if you want, or you can choose one of the other available vaccines. However, CDC strongly recommends the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over the J&J. The only booster authorized for people 16 or 17 years old is the Pfizer vaccine.

For more helpful information, please visit our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 12/9/2021

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