After months of speculation about COVID-19 booster shots, the Biden administration is rolling out a plan to get fully vaccinated Americans another shot in the arm as early as next month.
Federal health officials announced Wednesday that a third dose of the COVID-19 shots developed by Moderna
will start to be available the week of Sept. 20 for Americans who have been fully vaccinated for at least eight months. But the move is pending an evaluation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a recommendation from the Centers Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
“We have a responsibility to give the maximum amount of protection,” President Biden said in a press conference late Wednesday afternoon. “This will boost your immune response, will increase your protection from COVID-19, and it’s the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that could arise.”
The first round of boosters is likely intended for the same folks who were first in line during the initial vaccine rollout, including many health care providers, nursing home residents and senior citizens who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and/or at risk of suffering more severe illness or death, particularly as the more infectious delta variant has led to a recent resurgence in cases and hospitalizations.
“The plan is for the rule to be simple: Get your booster shot eight months after you got your second shot,” said White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients in a press briefing to discuss third doses of the mRNA vaccines. While the officials also anticipate boosters for recipients of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine down the line, they are not recommending extra shots for these people at present.
They also don’t want everyone running out to get their third jabs immediately. Zients added that, “We are not recommending that you go out and get a booster today. Instead, starting the week of Sept. 20, fully vaccinated adults can begin getting their booster shots eight months after their second shot of an mRNA vaccine.”
“We are not recommending that you go out and get a booster today.”
— White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients
President Biden said that getting booster shots “will be easy,” and he expects to about 100,000 booster shots will be administered in the U.S. this fall and early winter.
“Just show your vaccination card, and you’ll get a booster,” Biden said. “No other ID, no insurance, no state residency requirement.”
This has raised plenty of questions, however, such as why J&J recipients aren’t getting a booster yet, as well as where people can go to get their third shots — especially if their mass vaccination site has already closed. Indeed, this is a fluid situation that is still pending a green light from the FDA and CDC advisory committee, so this information about how third shots will be given is subject to change. But here is what we know about COVID boosters so far.
Who can get a booster shot for COVID-19? What’s the criteria for a COVID booster?
As it stands, the White House COVID-19 response team plans for all fully vaccinated adults ages 18 and up who received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get a booster shot eight months after their second dose of the original vaccine. Again, this is pending an FDA evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose, as well as a recommendation from a CDC advisory committee.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy said on Wednesday that while all fully vaccinated adults are eligible eight months after their second shot, the people who were fully vaccinated earliest in the pandemic will likely be eligible for the first round of boosters. “This includes our most vulnerable populations, like our health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors,” he said.
Are booster shots available now? When can I get one?
Health officials plan to start offering booster shots the week of Sept. 20, 2021, pending an evaluation from the FDA and a recommendation from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The plan is for recipients of the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccines to start getting their boosters eight months after they got their second shot.
Biden explained that the week of Sept. 20, “anyone vaccinated on or before Jan. 20 [of this year] will be eligible to get a booster shot.” And if you received your second shot on Feb. 15, you’re eligible for your booster beginning Nov. 15. And so on.
“There’s a simple rule: eight months after your second shot, get a booster shot,” Biden said.
Is the booster shot the same as the original Pfizer or Moderna vaccine doses that I got?
Yes, the Pfizer and Moderna booster shots will be the same as the first and second doses that you already received. But the companies are also testing other formulations of their vaccines, which are being engineered to target specific SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Will Johnson & Johnson have a booster shot? And why aren’t J&J shot recipients getting a booster now?
The public health officials do anticipate that booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the single-dose J&J vaccine. But because the J&J vaccine did not start rolling out across the U.S. until this past March, health officials are waiting on more data from the drug maker about how effective the J&J shot remains against the virus before deciding on boosters. “With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots,” the surgeon general said.
Where can I get a COVID booster shot? What if I went to a mass vaccination site for my first shot that’s now closed?
The White House COVID-19 response team has not given specifics on where exactly people can go to get their shots yet, but said that 90% of Americans live within five miles of a vaccination site. “You’ll be able to get a booster in roughly 80,000 places across the country, including over 40,000 local pharmacies,” said Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. “We’ll continue working closely with states, health care providers, pharmacies, and national and community-based organizations to ensure Americans [have] no issue getting a booster shot.”
Is the booster shot free?
Yes, and the health officials assured that no ID or insurance cards will be necessary to get a third jab. “Boosters will be free, regardless of immigration or health insurance status. No ID or insurance required,” said Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. “The bottom line is that we are prepared for boosters, and we will hit the ground running.”
Biden also emphasized that getting a booster shot should be “easy.” The president said that showing your vaccination card will be required, however.
What should I do if I lost my vaccine card?
President Biden said that getting a booster shot will be as easy as flashing your COVID-19 vaccination card at your local vaccination site. “It will be easy — just show your vaccination card and you’ll get a booster. No other ID, no insurance, no state residency requirement,” he said.
So if you lost your card, contact the place where you received your vaccine to access your vaccination record and get another card.
If you cannot contact your vaccination provider for some reason, then reach out to your state health department’s immunization information system (IIS). You can find state IIS information on the CDC website. The CDC notes that vaccination providers are required to report COVID-19 vaccinations to their IIS and related systems, so the state should have a record of your vaccination.
And if you enrolled in V-safe or VaxText after your first vaccine dose, if you are getting one of the two-shot vaccines, you can access your vaccination information using those tools. And check out more tips for protecting your COVID-19 vaccination card here.
This story has been updated with President Biden’s comments from his White House press conference on Wednesday afternoon.