Updated: Nov 8, 2021
As scientists and doctors continue to learn about COVID-19, its variants, the effectiveness of vaccinations, and their prevention of the disease more and more information is being released to the public weekly, which leads to lots of questions. In the April issue of our quarterly publication of "The Lamp", we answered questions regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. We would like to follow-up with more Q&A regarding the vaccines and booster shots as much has changed in the past few months.
What is the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccine effectiveness studies provide growing evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines protect as well in real-world conditions as they have in clinical trial settings. These studies show that the vaccines reduce the risk of COVID-19, especially severe illness, among people who are fully vaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccines offer protection against symptoms, but also help avoid people getting infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 at all. Vaccination can reduce the spread of disease, which helps protect you and the people around you.
All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States are effective at preventing COVID-19 as seen in clinical trial settings.
Research provides growing evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines offer similar protection in real world conditions.
COVID-19 vaccination is an important tool to help stop the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 vaccination helps protect people from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19 and might also help protect people around them.
To receive the most protection, people should receive all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get sick because no vaccine is 100% effective. Experts continue to monitor and evaluate how often this occurs, how severe their illness is, and how likely a vaccinated person is to spread COVID-19 to others.
CDC recommends you get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one is available to you.
If I am pregnant or plan to get pregnant should I get vaccinated?
COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.
Evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy has been growing. These data suggest that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy.
There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.
Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people.
Who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?
Studies show that after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus may decrease over time and be less able to protect against the Delta variant. Although COVID-19 vaccination for adults aged 65 years and older remains effective in preventing severe disease, recent data suggests vaccination is less effective at preventing infection or milder illness with symptoms.
The Pfizer-BioNTEch vaccine has recently been approved for children ages 5-11 years. The children's dose is 1/3 that of an adult dose. (Smaller needles, designed specifically for children are also used.)
Data from a small clinical trial show that a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot increased the immune response in trial participants who finished their primary series 6 months earlier. With an increased immune response, people should have improved protection against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. All three vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and Janssen [Johnson and Johnson] COVID-19 vaccine) have recently been approved for booster doses.
For Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, a single COVID-19 vaccine booster dose is recommended greater than or equal to 6 months after completion of an mRNA primary series. The Moderna booster dose is a smaller 50 micro-gram dose. For Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine, a single COVID-19 vaccine booster dose is recommended for persons aged 18 years and older, greater than or equal to 2 months after receipt of the initial Janssen dose, under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization.
For individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are recommended for those who are 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago.
For individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after their initial series:
Adults 65 and older and 50-64 year old people with medical conditions. People aged 65 years and older and adults 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should get a booster shot. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, and can also increase for adults of any age with underlying medical conditions.
Long-term care setting residents aged 18 years and older. Residents aged 18 years and older of long-term care settings should get a booster shot vaccine. Because residents in long-term care settings live closely together in group settings and are often older adults with underlying medical conditions, they are at increased risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19.
People with medical conditions aged 18 years and older. People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may get a booster shot vaccine based on their individual benefits and risks. Adults aged 18–49 years who have underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. However, that risk is likely not as high as it would be for adults aged 50 years and older who have underlying medical conditions. People aged 18–49 years who have underlying medical conditions may get a booster shot after considering their individual risks and benefits. This recommendation may change in the future as more data become available.
Employees and residents at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission who are 18 years and older. People aged 18–64 years at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may get a booster shot vaccine based on their individual benefits and risks. Adults aged 18–64 years who work or reside in certain settings (e.g., health care, schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters) may be at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, which could be spreading where they work or reside. Since that risk can vary across settings and based on how much COVID-19 is spreading in a community, people aged 18–64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may get a booster shot after considering their individual risks and benefits. This recommendation may change in the future as more data become available.
Occupations at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission include front line essential workers and health care workers as previously detailed by the CDC:
First responders (healthcare workers, firefighters, police, congregate care staff)
Education staff (teachers, support staff, daycare workers)
Food and agriculture workers
U.S. Postal Service workers
Public transit workers
Grocery store workers
Can I "mix-and-match" which vaccines I receive?
According to an IDPH press release on October 22, 2021, the FDA and CDC have approved the mixing and matching of vaccines. In their statement they said, "The use of each of the available COVID-19 vaccines as a heterologous (or “mix and match”) booster dose in eligible individuals, following completion of primary vaccination with a different available COVID-19 vaccine, is allowable. Allowing mixing and matching could alleviate supply issues, make the task of getting a booster simpler for Americans and allow people who may have had adverse reactions to the initial dose to try a different shot." Heterologous dosing may be considered for the booster dose only.
When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster if I am NOT in one of the recommended groups?
Additional populations may be recommended to receive a booster shot as more data become available. The COVID-19 vaccines approved and authorized in the United States continue to be effective at reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Experts are looking at all available data to understand how well the vaccines are working for different populations. This includes looking at how new variants, like Delta, affect vaccine effectiveness.
What are the risks to getting a booster shot?
So far, reactions reported after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot were similar to that of the 2-shot primary series. Fatigue and pain at the injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and overall, most side effects were mild to moderate. However, as with the 2-shot primary series, serious side effects are rare, but may occur.
Am I still considered “fully vaccinated” if I don’t get a booster shot?
Yes. Everyone is still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-shot series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the J&J/Janssen vaccine.
Information in this article was provided by the CDC.gov website. For more information visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html