How and Where to Get COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters in Iowa

Posted on 12/14/22 by Andrew Soergel, Aaron Kassraie, Elissa Chudwin

Virus Outbreak Vaccine Iowa

Pfizer & Moderna: Authorized for people age 6 months and older. Both Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA technology, which prompts the body to make its own version of COVID-19’s spike protein, a key part of the virus. Both require two shots spaced apart for full primary vaccination, except for Pfizer recipients ages 6 months to 4 years, who are given three separate doses. The third shot for children in that age group is the updated, omicron-specific vaccine.

Novavax: Authorized for people 12 and older. Novavax uses a more traditional vaccine technology, directly delivering a lab-made version of the COVID spike protein upon injection. Requires two shots spaced apart for full primary vaccination.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J): Authorized for people 18 and older who only have access to the J&J vaccine, or who cannot receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for medical reasons. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its J&J guidance due to a rare but serious blood clotting disorder associated with the one-shot vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting an omicron-specific (bivalent) booster, which targets the original strain of the coronavirus as well as more recently circulating variants (BA.4 and BA.5). The original vaccines, called monovalent vaccines, will no longer be available as booster doses.

  • Pfizer boosters: People ages 5 and older should get Pfizer’s omicron-specific booster at least two months after receiving a primary series or booster, according to the CDC. Children 6 months through 4 years of age are not yet eligible for an omicron-specific booster, but will get the updated shot as their third dose if they have yet to complete their primary series. 

  • Moderna boosters: The CDC recommends people ages 6 months and older get Moderna’s omicron-specific booster at least two months after receiving a primary series or booster.
  • Novavax boosters: Adults age 18 or older are authorized to get this booster at least six months after receiving their primary series if they have not yet gotten a COVID-19 booster, the CDC says. Novavax’s monovalent booster is available for adults who cannot or will not get an mRNA vaccine or the omicron-specific booster.  
  • Immunocompromised people: The CDC recommends that most immunocompromised people get a third dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, distinct from boosters. One bivalent booster dose is also recommended for all fully vaccinated individuals 5 and older, as well as for children 6 months and older who received the Moderna primary series, if they are at least two months past their last shot. Children younger than 5 who received Pfizer as their primary series are not yet eligible for a bivalent booster. However, if they haven’t completed the third shot in the Pfizer series, they will receive the updated vaccine for their third dose.

It’s safe and effective to choose which vaccine you receive as a booster, either Pfizer or Moderna, regardless of which initial vaccines you received. Note that the Novavax booster can only be used as a first booster shot; if you’ve already gotten one or several COVID-19 boosters, you cannot receive a Novavax booster. Health officials have discouraged people from receiving an initial J&J vaccine or booster due to a rare but serious blood clotting disorder.

  • Pharmacies, health departments, clinics and other locations: Shots and boosters are being administered at retail pharmacies and facilities affiliated with the Iowa Department of Public Health (call the department at 515- 281-7689 if you need help finding and making an appointment), certain federally qualified health centers, local clinics and other locations, such as doctor’s offices. 
  • Use the federal government’s vaccine website to search for vaccination sites by zip code. Get the same information by texting your zip code to 438829 or by calling 800-232-0233. You can also check with your primary physician’s office to see if COVID-19 vaccinations are being offered. If you are a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs is offering COVID-19 vaccinations at VA facilities. Sign up online or call 800-827-1000 to make an appointment. 

Some vaccination sites ask for proof of identity or eligibility. Bring a driver’s license or other state-issued ID that shows your name, age and state residency, along with your health insurance card, if you have one. You won’t be charged for the initial vaccine series, or a booster shot, but the vaccine provider may bill your insurer a fee for administering the vaccine. After your first shot, bring your vaccine card for subsequent shots.  

Most long-term care residents and staff were offered first and second doses through a federal program that provided free on-site vaccinations in late 2020 and early 2021. The program has ended, but the federal government continues to allocate COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to pharmacies that are partnered with long-term care facilities to provide vaccinations, mainly on-site.  

Facilities that don’t have a pharmacy partner are encouraged to work with local or state health departments — or the federal government, if need be — to provide vaccinations. 

You should not have any out-of-pocket cost for getting the vaccine or a booster. AARP fought to make sure the federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine itself.

Scammers are purporting to offer COVID vaccines and treatments and trying to charge for them. AARP's Fraud Watch Network is tracking the latest scams.

You should get a small white card at your vaccination appointment with your name, birth date, name of the vaccine you received and the date it was administered. If you receive the Pfizer, Moderna or Novavax vaccine, bring your card when you get your second shot.  

You may need your vaccine card to schedule a third vaccine dose, for certain immunocompromised people, or a booster shot.  You may also need it for certain kinds of travel or other activities, so keep it in a safe place. You can take a photo of it with your smartphone for your own records. Experts say that posting a photo of your card to social media could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

If you’ve lost your vaccine card, call the site where you were vaccinated to request a new one or a copy of your vaccination record. You can also contact your state health department to request a replacement card or a copy of your record. 

All vaccines reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections and are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from the disease. But no vaccine is 100 percent effective, and breakthrough infections can occur post-vaccination.

This guide was updated on Dec. 14, 2022, with new information about the approval of omicron-specific boosters for young children.

This story is provided by AARP Iowa. Visit the AARP Iowa page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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