Everything you need to know about COVID booster shots

August 13, 2021, 5:36 PM UTC
Updated August 13, 2021, 6:39 PM UTC

The FDA’s late-Thursday approval of an additional round of COVID-19 vaccinations for certain people has some celebrating and others scratching their heads.

The booster shots were approved for immunocompromised people, but others who are concerned about the ongoing spread of the Delta variant wonder when or if federal health officials will clear them for an additional dose.

It’s a fluid situation that’s changing frequently, but here’s where things stand now.

Who qualifies for a COVID booster shot?

The Food and Drug Administration’s authorization cited “solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.” That’s a broad definition, but it includes people with HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain types of cancer, and individuals with diseases that affect the immune system, such as lupus. A full list of immune diseases can be found at the website for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 3% of U.S. adults—roughly 7 million people—are immunocompromised.

When do COVID booster shots begin?

While the FDA has given the green light, most doctors will wait for CDC approval before they start giving boosters. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet later today to discuss booster doses for immunocompromised people—and should announce the results of that vote the same day. Assuming they approve it, booster shots could begin as early as this weekend.

Which vaccines have been approved for COVID booster shots?

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were mentioned in the FDA announcement. It’s less clear how immunocompromised people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should proceed. Consult your physician if you’re in that third group.

If I’m getting a COVID booster, should I get the same vaccine?

White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday it’s best not to mix when it comes to booster shots. If your initial jabs were with Pfizer, it’s not recommended that you get your booster from Moderna.

“It is preferable you go with the same brand,” he said.

I’m not immunocompromised. Can I get a COVID booster?

It’s not advised right now, but that could change in the coming months. While Fauci said “at this particular point…apart from the immune-compromised, we don’t feel we need to give boosters right now,” he also noted that it is is “likely” that everyone, at some point, will need a booster shot.

When can I expect more information on booster shots?

The Biden administration and FDA are expected to lay out a broader strategy for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for all vaccinated Americans in September.

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