The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that all fully vaccinated kids ages 5 and older and adults in the U.S. can now receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. While this is great news, the announcement leaves some wondering whether they need to get a booster with summer’s warm weather approaching and what to expect once they do.
Suzanne Shea, RPh, vice president of Sharp HealthCare’s system pharmacy services, answers the top five questions about COVID-19 vaccine boosters:
- Who should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?
The CDC now recommends that all full vaccinated people ages 5 and older receive a booster shot. Prior to the rise of concerns about the omicron variant causing a rash of new cases across the country , the agency had recommended only kids over age 12 and adults receive a booster shot — with people over age 50 eligible for a second booster. However, out of an abundance of caution, all kids over age 5 and adults are now urged to get the additional dose.
- When should I get my COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?
To be eligible for a booster, you must currently be age 5 or older and 5 months must have passed since you received the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or 2 months must have passed since receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Refer to your COVID-19 vaccination card to confirm the date of your last dose and determine when you can receive your booster. If you or your child are also due for an annual flu vaccine, both can be administered at the same time, though Shea recommends receiving the shots in different arms.
On the other hand, adults due for a mammogram should plan to leave several weeks between COVID vaccination and the screening. “The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can cause enlarged lymph nodes, which is also a symptom of breast cancer,” Shea says. “Schedule your screening mammogram 4 to 6 weeks after your booster of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Additionally, people of all ages should not get a booster shot if currently sick with COVID-19 or any other illness, or if they have had symptoms in the past 14 days. If you have been treated for COVID-19 with monoclonal antibody or convalescent plasma therapy in the last 90 days, your doctor can help you determine if — and when — another dose is appropriate.
- Which COVID-19 vaccine booster shot should I get?
Regardless of which vaccine received initially, individuals over the age of 17 can receive a dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, if desired or necessary due to vaccine availability. “We want to support our patients and employees to help them choose, but we do not have a position on one vaccine over another,” Shea says.
Children ages 5 through 17 can receive the Pfizer booster only. The booster will offer the same dose of the vaccine as the initial two shots.
- What side effects should I expect after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?
As with your original COVID-19 vaccine doses, you may experience mild side effects after receiving a booster. Side effects can include soreness at the injection site, fatigue, body aches, gastrointestinal issues, fever and headaches. Symptoms like these are common when getting any vaccine and indicate your immune system is once again revving up to work against the virus if needed.
If possible, you may want to plan for a day or two of rest after getting your booster shot. And talk with your doctor if you have concerns about receiving a booster or if you or your child had an adverse reaction to earlier doses.
“Everyone is different, and just like the first doses, some people have none and others have more noticeable side effects, such as fatigue or achiness,” Shea says. “The most common side effect is a sore arm.”
- Where can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?
And what should I bring? Booster shots are available at community pharmacies and vaccination sites across San Diego, including Sharp's three vaccination sites. You can also schedule an appointment or find a walk-in location on MyTurn.
You do not need to return to your original vaccination site to receive a booster. Choose the location that is most convenient for you and don’t forget to bring your COVID-19 vaccination card.
If you have lost your COVID-19 vaccination card or your child’s card, you may request proof of vaccination through the San Diego Immunization Registry by filling out the SDIR form. Vaccination data is also stored in the state's digital record system, and you can request a link to a QR code or digital copy of your COVID-19 vaccination record.
“The availability of booster shots will help ensure that more people in our community are protected from severe illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19,” Shea says. “However, we remain focused on ensuring that all eligible people — those age 5 and older — receive their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to help stop the spread of COVID and return to a greater sense of normalcy in our daily lives.”