COVID-19 Booster Shots & Variants: What you need to know

This content is written by Dr. Daniel Winn, Chief Medical Officer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

Recently cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again across much of the United States. While unknowns are swirling around the new Omicron variant, the best protection against COVID-19 today are the vaccinations available, including booster shots.

If you are thinking, “maybe I should wait and see if an Omicron-specific vaccine will be developed,” it would be best not to wait. While it is true that the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) can be adjusted, it would take several months to make changes and complete proper testing.

Guidance from CDC now allows tens of millions of Americans to receive a COVID-19 booster shot. Adults 18 or older who received the:

  • Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines are eligible for a booster shot six months after their last shot.
  • Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine as their initial shot are eligible for a booster shot two months after their shot.

Individuals eligible for a booster have the option to choose either Pfizer, Moderna or J&J. Some may prefer the vaccine type they originally received, and others may prefer a different booster. The CDC recommendations now allow for this type of mix-and-match dosing for booster shots.

If you have not actively pursued receiving a booster shot, now is the time to give this serious thought. The effectiveness of the original vaccine injections may reduce over time due to a combination of decreasing protection as time passes and the greater infectiousness of the COVID-19 variants. The vaccines available have demonstrated a reduction in the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even amid the widely circulating Delta variant.

With the two illnesses—COVID-19 and the flu—looking similar as both are respiratory illnesses, it is more important than ever to protect yourself and those you love by getting a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months of age and older receive the flu vaccine.

As Healthcare workers prepare for another rough winter, It’s critical not to become complacent about protecting yourself, your loved ones and our communities.

You should feel free to use your doctor or other clinicians as a trusted resource.

If you are not yet vaccinated and are interested in learning more about the vaccine or finding a shot near you, additional information on booster shots can be found at the following resources:

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