What you need to know about booster shots and an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

October 12, 2021

Vaccines keep us healthy by protecting us from certain diseases, including COVID-19. Medical experts and scientists have been researching if people will need a booster or an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This research is ongoing, but here’s what we know at this time.

Do pregnant people need to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Pregnant people and people who were recently pregnant are at higher risk of getting seriously ill and dying from COVID-19. Pregnant people who get the virus also may be at higher risk for pregnancy problems, such as preterm birth and having their babies admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). CDC urges people who are pregnant, who were recently pregnant, who are trying to get pregnant and who might become pregnant in the future to get vaccinated. Vaccines are also recommended for people who are lactating. CDC strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before, during and after pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks. 

Make sure to get both doses of the vaccine if you received the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine in order to have effective protection.  The J&J/Janssen vaccine currently requires only one injection.

Could you protect your baby from COVID-19 after getting vaccinated?

Pregnant and lactating people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 produce antibodies that could protect their babies from COVID-19. These antibodies are present in the placenta and breastmilk. This is another reason to get vaccinated against COVID-19.  

What is a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

A COVID-19 booster shot is an additional dose of vaccine you get.  The booster is designed to help people maintain their level of immunity longer. Booster shots are common for many other vaccines. After a certain amount of time, we all need to get booster shots to prevent illnesses such as tetanus, measles and chickenpox among others.

Who can get the COVID-19 vaccine booster?

People age 18 and older who are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 or at a higher risk of severe illness may get a booster shot. This includes pregnant people.

At this moment, only people who completed the vaccination schedule with the Pfizer-BioNTech may receive the booster shot. You can get the booster shot 6 months after receiving the second of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Experts are still discussing if booster shots are needed for people who have already received Moderna or J&J/Janssen vaccines. If you have already received a COVID-19 vaccine, follow the recommended vaccination schedule for the brand of vaccine that you received. Visit CDC.gov to keep informed about any changes related to the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.

Do immunocompromised people need an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. Vaccines work with your immune system to get your body ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. An extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for people with problems with their immune systems (immunocompromised). It can help protect people who didn’t have a strong enough response after being fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA has authorized—and the CDC recommends—that those with certain medical conditions that suppress the immune system get an extra dose of the same brand of COVID-19 vaccine that they received before.  

This includes:

  • People with conditions that affect their immune systems
  • Those receiving chemotherapy for cancer
  • Cell or organ transplant patients
  • People taking medications that suppress their immune systems
  • Those with advanced or untreated HIV

People who fall into this category can get an extra dose as early as 28 days after a second dose.

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