I know, I know… some of you are still making a personalized health decision regarding the COVID vaccine.
And now, booster shots are making headlines everywhere.
With concerns over breakthrough infections rising—and with another winter season fast approaching—I’m certain many of you are overwhelmed. (I’m fielding these same thoughts and questions from my own patients, too.)
So, since you already know my stance on vaccination, I thought I would address the topic of booster shots here today. At least, to the best of my ability…
An extra dose of protection
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have authorized a booster dose of all three vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
And yes, the mix-and-match approach has been approved—meaning YOU can choose which booster you’d like to receive.
(These decisions were made after rigorous data analysis—which should reassure anyone who may be worried that speed is trumping safety here. Clearly, it’s not.)
With that said, let’s cover the basics…
A booster is simply an extra dose of a vaccine that is equal to or less than the original dose. The goal is to “re-up” the immune response, which may have weakened since your last dose.
This extra shot is especially critical for the elderly and for people with weakened immune systems. Common conditions like cancer, diabetes, even obesity contribute to this issue. (You may recognize these as dangerous pre-existing conditions that I have warned you about before.)
But newer and stronger variants of this novel virus also make the need for boosters even more urgent.
So, who’s eligible? Well, currently, you can book an appointment at least six months after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine IF you are…
- age 65 or older;
- over the age of 18 and are considered high risk;
- over the age of 18 and live or work in a high-risk environment (this includes healthcare workers, teachers, and prison or homeless shelter employees)
And any J&J recipient who is 18 years or older can book an appointment at least 2 months after their one (and only) dose.
As with the original vaccine rollouts, we can expect eligibility to expand over the weeks and months ahead.
What to expect the third time around
As with the original vaccines, the boosters will be free and available pretty much anywhere you turn—here in NYC, you can even get vaccinated in the subway.
And it will work on an honor system. Meaning you may not need to show proof of your original vaccine. (But I would still advise keeping your vaccination card handy.)
You also won’t likely have to show proof of being at high risk of COVID-19 infection, either—whether it’s due to age, an underlying medical condition, or employment—to receive your booster. Simply state that you are eligible.
As for side effects, you can expect the same kind of reaction you may have had with your first two injections—soreness, fatigue, and body aches are common complaints. But remember, proper aftercare is key.
Last but not least, allow me to address one final question (it’s the biggest question on my mind, too): Will we need to get a booster shot every year?
Right now, your guess is as good as mine. Reports suggest that the boosters can increase antibodies to a very high level—which means that, in theory, they should provide protection for a long time.
But there’s no COVID crystal ball to consult here. And once again, as with most things since this pandemic hit, we will just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, consider talking with your healthcare practitioner to discuss whether a booster may be right for you. Then, when one becomes available to you, go ahead and book an appointment.
P.S. Now is the perfect time to keep your immune system firing on all cylinders. And I outline all of my top immune boosting tips in one convenient report, my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity. Click here to learn more!
“COVID-19 Booster Shots: Top Questions Answered.” WebMD Health News, 09/24/21. (webmd.com/vaccines/covid-19-vaccine/news/20210924/covid-19-boosters-questions-answered)