Booster shots against COVID-19 are now available for millions of Americans, but does that mean you need to get one to be considered fully vaccinated?
Qualifying as fully vaccinated is important because it can be required to travel, attend large events, or get access to indoor businesses without a recent COVID-19 test. Soon, companies with more than 100 employees will require workers to be fully vaccinated or submit to routine testing, thanks to a forthcoming OSHA regulation.
If you haven’t gotten a booster shot (or aren’t eligible to get one), there’s no need to panic. “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,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While not having a booster won’t affect your ability to attend live sports games or travel to Europe, the CDC recommends you get one once you’re eligible to maximize protection against COVID-19.
Right now, only the Pfizer vaccine’s booster shot has been authorized for emergency use. That means people who received Pfizer for their original two doses are able to get the third shot, since the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved mixing and matching. (A panel of advisers to the FDA also voted to recommend a half-dose booster shot of the Moderna vaccine, but it hasn’t yet been given the go-ahead.)
The CDC recommends waiting six months between your second shot and your booster dose.
Even among Pfizer recipients, only certain people are currently eligible for a booster shot:
- People 65 and older
- People 18 and older with qualifying underlying health conditions (like cancer, diabetes, lung disease, and more)
- People who work in high-risk settings where they are more likely to encounter COVID-19 (like first responders, grocery/food workers, public transit workers and more)
- People who live in high-risk settings, like nursing homes