Second COVID-19 Booster Shot: Do You Qualify?
Tens of millions of Americans became eligible for a second COVID-19 booster shot when federal regulators on March 29 approved a new round of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for everyone 50 and over.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization is designed to reinforce the waning immunity provided by previous shots. Health experts say the vaccines are the best defense against severe COVID-19 illness.
Those old enough can get the second booster as early as four months after their first booster. Americans 12 and over who were previously boosted and are immunocompromised are also eligible for another booster shot.
The Centers for Disease Control, which quickly signed off on the FDA’s decision, reports that more than 34 million Americans over 50 were boosted four months ago and are thus eligible for a second booster.
If you’re in that number and are contemplating rolling up your sleeve yet again, it’s important to know the facts.
Why is a second COVID-19 booster shot needed?
The decision on a second booster comes when cases have fallen substantially since the height of the Omicron wave. Health officials, however, remain concerned that new variants of the virus could begin to spread in the coming months.
Data continues to show the importance of vaccination and booster doses to protect people both from infection and severe outcomes of COVID-19. During the Omicron surge, the CDC reported boosted infected people were 21 times less likely to die and seven times less likely to be hospitalized than the unvaccinated.
The FDA said its decision to authorize another booster shot comes on the heels of new data from researchers in Israel that revealed no safety concerns with a fourth dose of the vaccine. Both Pfizer and Moderna have argued for a second booster.
The CDC also determined that all adults who received two doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may get third shots using Pfizer or Moderna. Adults who received the J&J vaccine and a second shot of Pfizer or Moderna are not yet eligible for a third dose unless they are age 50 and older or have compromised immune systems.
What is the future of COVID-19 booster shots?
The FDA’s advisory committee on vaccines is contemplating the future of booster shots in the United States. For now, the new round of boosters will be the same formula that has been injected into arms for initial vaccinations and the first boosters.
Both Moderna and Pfizer are currently being developing new versions of COVID-19 vaccines in hopes that the revised shots will be even more effective than current versions designed to combat the initial “prototype virus.”
Vaccine makers and some public health experts have predicted COVID-19 will eventually become a seasonal virus like the flu, meaning annual vaccinations against the virus may eventually be recommended, particularly for the elderly and those with underlying conditions.
Talk to your doctor if you have questions about receiving a second booster. If you have not gotten your COVID-19 vaccine or you are due for a booster, please visit www.ochsner.org/vaccineinfo to find a vaccination site in your area. Appointments can be made through MyOchsner or by calling 844-888-2772.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published on April 4, 2022 and has since been updated.