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Boosting Your Immunity During COVID-19: What You Need To Know

Boosting Your Immunity During COVID-19: What You Need To Know

Cold weather is here, which means an increase in the prevalence of illnesses such as colds, flu and COVID-19. With the discovery of the new omicron variant and the continued spread of the delta variant, now is the time to remain vigilant and stay healthy. The best measure to protect ourselves and the community from both current disease and the emergence of new variants is to get vaccinated and receive the booster shot.

Below, we answer a few of your booster questions.

What is a booster shot for COVID-19 and why do I need it?

The COVID-19 vaccines approved and authorized in the United States continue to be effective at reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death. However, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection, especially among certain populations, against mild and moderate disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Studies also show that the vaccine may be less able to protect against more infectious variants.

Booster shots increase your body’s immune response to COVID-19 and train your body to recognize the virus or bacteria and defend itself against it.

Booster shots are nothing new. You have likely gotten one over the years for measles, mumps, and rubella; shingles; pneumonia; Hepatitis A; Hepatitis B; and other illnesses.

Who is eligible for a booster shot?

There are now booster recommendations for all three available COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

For individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are recommended for those who are 18 and older and were vaccinated 6 months or more after the second dose in their initial series.

For the nearly 15 million people who got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are recommended for those who are 18 and older and were vaccinated two or more months ago.

Can I mix and match my vaccine boosters?

CDC recommendations now allow for mix-and-match dosing for booster shots.

Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received and others may prefer to get a different booster.

Are the booster doses different from the initial vaccine series?

Booster doses for the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are the same as the initial vaccination series. While Pfizer required a two-shot series for initial vaccination, the booster is only one shot. The Johnson & Johnson initial series consisted of one shot and the booster consists of one shot.

The Moderna booster is half the dose of the original shot, although Moderna required a two-shot series for initial vaccination.

What are the risks to getting a booster shot?

Reactions after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot were similar to that of the 2-shot primary series. The most common symptoms are pain at the injection site, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and fever, followed by chills and nausea. Overall, most side effects are mild to moderate.

However, as with the 2-shot primary series, more serious side effects, although rare, may occur.

Data is limited for the Johnson & Johnson booster, although results show it is generally well-tolerated. People reported fever, fatigue and headache after receiving a second dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC.

Where can I get my booster shot?

Many area pharmacies offer the booster shot, along with local health departments. Please call ahead to make sure that the booster is offered.

What should I bring to my appointment?

Bring your vaccination card to your booster shot vaccination appointment.

If you did not receive a Vaccination Record Card at your first appointment, contact the site where you got your first shot or visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to find out how you can get a card.

Please remember to wear a shirt with a sleeve that is easy to raise.