By Mary Kekatos, Acting US Health Editor for DailyMail.com
What are COVID-19 vaccine boosters?
A booster shot is given at least six months after people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is intended to prolong immunity and ‘boost’ the immune system to create higher levels of antibodies against the virus.
Is vaccine protection waning?
Not necessarily, although this topic is hotly debated.
Some people have weakened immune systems, either due to medical conditions or due to age, which makes them unable to mount a full immune response to the first doses.
Some studies have shown that vaccine protection wears off after more than four months, which is common with several other immunizations.
However, health officials insist that vaccines are still highly effective against the most serious effects of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.
Who is currently eligible?
Last month, boosters were approved for Americans with compromised immune systems.
This week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended that authorization to specific high-risk groups.
These include people aged 65 and over, residents of long-term care facilities, and people aged 18 to 64 who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee advised against using boosters for people at high risk because of their job or other factors, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky made this decision and sided with the FDA.
This means that people at high risk of serious illness due to their occupation – such as health professionals, teachers and supermarket employees – and those who live in institutional settings that increase their risk of exposure, such as prisons or shelters for the homeless, are also eligible.
Which COVID-19 vaccine booster can I get?
Currently, only recommended groups who have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and received their last injection at least six months ago can receive booster shots.
Pfizer’s booster injection is exactly the same – both in ingredients and in dosage (30 micrograms) – as the first two doses.
What if I got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine?
Moderna has filed with the FDA for approval for the booster injection, with Johnson & Johnson expected to do so soon.
Therefore, recipients of either of these two vaccines are not yet eligible for boosters.
President Joe Biden said on Thursday that scientists are still examining data for booster shots from the two companies.
“Our doctors and scientists are working day and night to analyze the data from those two organizations if and when you need a booster shot, and we’ll give you updates as the process progresses,” he said.
Can I mix and match?
Currently, federal health officials do not recommend having a booster shot made by a vaccine manufacturer other than your initial doses.
This means that Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients are not recommended to receive a booster dose from Pfizer and vice versa.