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Booster Shots Approved: What Does It Mean For You?

The FDA has authorized Covid vaccine booster shots for Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. In turn, the CDC has new booster shot recommendations.

The details can be confusing, so we set out to answer some common questions. 

I already got my vaccine, why do I need another one?

All vaccines available in the United States are still effective against the Delta variant of Covid in preventing severe illness and death, but data has shown that our immunity wanes after several months. The booster shot will help strengthen your immune response, which will help protect you against Covid. 

Will I need to get boosters regularly?

This is not known at this time. It’s possible the vaccines could be like the flu vaccine, which requires yearly immunizations. Some in the scientific community say that, instead of thinking of the latest round of immunizations as boosters, perhaps we should be thinking of them as the last in a two- or three-dose series, as is the case with Hepatitis B vaccines.

Research studies are ongoing, and immune responses will be analyzed after this latest round of vaccines to help make this determination. 

Am I eligible for a vaccine? 

As of yesterday, CDC has expanded Covid booster vaccine eligibility to include anyone who has received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago and special groups who have received an mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccine at least six months ago including: 

65+ population

18+ and living in long-term care settings (residential homes, skilled nursing facilities, group homes, senior housing & day programs.)

18+ and living with certain underlying conditions that are chronic in nature or lead to immune suppression, such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, chronic lung conditions like asthma and COPD, heart disease, overweight/obesity, mental illness, pregnancy, smoking, organ transplant, stroke and substance abuse disorders

18+ who live or work in high-risk settings (healthcare, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, education workers, grocery store workers, manufacturing.)

Local pharmacies should be ready to start offering vaccines as soon as this afternoon. CVS is now scheduling appointments, for example.

Which vaccine should I get? 

The CDC has a new recommendation allowing for a “mix and match” approach to vaccines. Data has shown that those who originally received Johnson & Johnson and boost with Moderna have a 76-fold increase in antibodies, a 35-fold increase in antibodies with Pfizer and a fourfold increase with another Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

For those who have previously received an mRNA vaccine, you can choose any vaccine, although data shows an additional mRNA vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) may be more advantageous than Johnson & Johnson. 

If you choose Moderna, the dose will be 50% of the original dose. The other vaccine booster doses are the same as the original vaccine. 

LEARN MORE

Booster efficacy: 

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/booster-shots-and-third-doses-for-covid19-vaccines-what-you-need-to-know

https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/johnson-and-johnson-covid-booster

CDC guidance: 

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/p1021-covid-booster.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html

https://acl.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine-access-long-term-care-settings

CDC data: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip/meetings/downloads/slides-2021-9-23/03-COVID-Oliver.pdf

Nicole Burgett-Yandow, NP has a Masters Degree in Nursing with over 19 years of health care experience. Currently, she practices at Winchester Hospital Center for Weight Management as well as providing after hours on call coverage for patients within the Atrius system. She has worked in a variety of settings including primary care and infectious disease. She has been a Tewksbury resident since 2009 and has two kids in the Tewksbury Public Schools.

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