May 10, 2022
COVID-19 booster shots play a vital role in the fight against the coronavirus and new variants. The information below will help you know how to best protect yourself and your loved ones against the virus.
There's no difference in the formula of the vaccine itself. However, the dose may be lower. For example, the Moderna booster is half the dose of one primary series shot, while the Pfizer booster is the same dose. Boosters and additional doses are also used for different medical reasons and given at different times.
Booster shots are for people who have completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccination. The primary series is two shots of the Moderna vaccine, two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech (Pfizer) vaccine, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) vaccine. The booster extends the protection of the vaccine and increases your body’s immune response. It's given at least two months after the J&J primary vaccine or five months after the Moderna and Pfizer primary vaccine series.
Second booster shots are available to all adults age 50 and older, and to people age 12 and older with weakened immune systems — as long as it has been four months or more since they have completed their first booster shot. Anyone age 50 and older can receive the Moderna or Pfizer second booster. Adults age 18 and older with weakened immune systems can get a second booster of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Children ages 12–17 with weakened immune systems can receive a second booster of the Pfizer vaccine. Finally, anyone who received the J&J vaccine as both their primary series dose and booster dose can get a second booster dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine at least four months after the first J&J booster dose.
Additional doses, sometimes called third shots, help people with weakened immune systems build enough protection against the virus. Their bodies haven't fully responded to the vaccine after the two shot series, so the extra dose helps them develop more immunity. With Moderna and Pfizer, this is a third shot given 28 or more days after the second one. As of March 30, 2022, no additional dose is recommended for those who receive the J&J vaccine.*
Everyone 12 years and older who has received the primary vaccine series should get a booster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of March 30, 2022. However, children ages 12–17 can only get a Pfizer booster. For Moderna or Pfizer, you can get a booster when it's been five months since you completed the primary vaccine series. For J&J, you can get a booster when it's been two months since your primary dose.
If you are an adult age 50 or older, or age 18 or older with a weakened immune system, the CDC recommends a second booster of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Children ages 12–17 with weakened immune systems should have a Pfizer second booster. You should have your second booster four or more months after your first booster.
Yes. The CDC recommends an additional shot and a booster shot if your immune system is moderately or severely compromised. That means if you receive the Moderna or Pfizer primary series of two shots plus an additional dose, you should still get two boosters, for a total of five COVID-19 vaccines. If you receive the J&J single-dose primary vaccine, there’s no current recommendation for an additional dose, but you should receive two COVID-19 booster doses, for a total of three COVID-19 vaccines. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about being immunocompromised.
Even if you've had COVID-19 and received the primary vaccine series, the CDC recommends a first booster dose. If you received the Moderna vaccine series and are age 18 or older, you can get a booster when it's been five months since you completed the primary vaccine series. If you received the Pfizer vaccine series and are age 12 or older, you can get a booster when it's been five months since you completed the primary vaccine series. With the J&J vaccine, you can get a booster when it's been two months since your primary dose.
No matter which primary vaccine you received, you can mix and match the COVID-19 booster shots if you are age 18 or older. That means you can get whatever booster shot your doctor recommends or is available near you. Children ages 12–17 can get a Pfizer booster only.
Children ages 12–17 with weakened immune systems should get the Pfizer second booster. Adults ages 18–49 with weakened immune systems and all adults age 50 and older should receive the Moderna or Pfizer second booster.
The side effects of the COVID-19 booster or additional dose are similar to those of the primary vaccine series. Some people experience tiredness, headache, muscle aches, or a fever after they receive it.
Yes. COVID-19 vaccines, additional doses, and booster shots are covered.
To find a COVID-19 booster shot near you, visit vaccines.gov.
COVID-19 information can change quickly, such as:
For first booster shots:
For additional doses:
For second boosters:
* As of March 30, 2022, there is no current recommendation from the CDC for an extra dose for people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, even if they have a qualifying medical condition.