Those ages 12 and older who got the Pfizer vaccine should get a booster five months after completing their initial two-shot series, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Moderna vaccine recipients ages 18 and up should get their booster five months after their second shot, and Johnson & Johnson recipients should get a booster dose at least two months after their first shot. The CDC says Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are preferable to Johnson & Johnson's due to a rare but serious blood clotting disorder associated with the one-shot vaccine.
Third doses of Pfizer and Moderna, distinct from boosters, are recommended for specific immunocompromised people, including organ transplant recipients and certain cancer patients. These recipients may also get a booster — a fourth dose — at least six months after the third shot, according to CDC guidance. A third Pfizer dose is also recommended for children ages 5 to 11 who are moderately or severely immunocompromised, 28 days following their second shot.
It’s safe and effective to choose which vaccine you receive as a booster - whether it’s the one you got initially or another vaccine, according to CDC recommendations.
Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for children age 5 and older; the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized for those 18 and older. Pfizer’s vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds is one-third the dose given to people age 12 and up, and is given in two doses, three weeks apart, according to CDC recommendations. Shots for kids are available at doctors’ offices and certain retail pharmacies. Call your doctor or check pharmacy websites. Both Pfizer and Moderna are researching how their vaccines work in children as young as 6 months.
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.
West Virginia did not take part in the federal program to administer the COVID-19 vaccines to long-term care residents and staff, but has completed its vaccination clinics via partnerships with a broad array of pharmacies. 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 initial vaccines or booster shots.
Both Pfizer and Moderna require two doses. If you get one of these, you’ll need a follow-up dose to be effectively immunized. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires just one shot.
You should not have any out-of-pocket costs 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 or Moderna 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 and may want to take a photo of it with your smartphone for your own records. But experts warn 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 the state health department to request a replacement card or a copy of your record.
All three 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, while relatively rare, have been reported. The CDC is tracking breakthrough infections and illness and death among vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.
This guide was updated on Jan. 7, 2022 with the latest CDC recommendations for booster shots.
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This story is provided by AARP West Virginia. Visit the AARP West Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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