COVID-19 booster shots and third doses: What you need to know

Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2021

We know that you may have questions about this, so we hope the information below will help you! If you need to schedule an appointment for your booster shot or third dose, please call one of our Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Family Medicine or Internal Medicine offices.

What is the booster shot?

The CDC recently approved a booster shot specifically and only for those who received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months ago. Several groups who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine are eligible. These groups include:

  • Individuals 65 and older
  • Long-Term Care residents
  • Anyone 18-64 years of age with underlying medical conditions
  • Individuals who work in healthcare settings or an occupation that makes them high-risk for contracting COVID

The purpose of this booster shot is to extend the protection of the COVID-19 vaccine and increase the body’s immune response. This does not guarantee that you will not get infected, but with an increased immune response, you should have improved protection against COVID-19. These vaccines are working to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death, even against the Delta variant. If you are fully vaccinated, you are still very well protected from getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

What is the third dose?

Specifically, for those who are immunocompromised, the CDC has approved a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine if the second dose was received at least 28 days ago. Some examples of what might qualify you for this third dose are:

  • Active cancer treatment
  • Organ transplant recipient
  • Recent stem cell transplant recipient
  • Taking medication to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high dose corticosteroids

People with moderately to severely compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and may not build the same level of immunity to the two-dose vaccine series compared to people who are not immunocompromised. This additional dose is intended to improve immunocompromised people’s response to their initial vaccine series.

Will the booster shot or third dose be free?

  • It will be free and accessible to the public.
  • You will need to bring your current vaccination card.

What are the side effects?

  • Side effects are very similar to what you might have experienced with a second dose.
  • Some people report getting a headache, fever or muscle aches after the vaccine, while some experience no side effects at all. If you do experience these side effects, it’s a sign that the vaccine is causing your body’s immune system to react and create antibodies to fight off the virus.

Can I get a different booster shot or third dose than my original vaccine?

  • No, you’ll need to receive the same booster shot or third dose as your original vaccine series. If you received the first and second dose of Pfizer, you’ll need to get a Pfizer booster or third dose of the Pfizer vaccine – depending on which you’re eligible for. If you received the first and second dose of the Moderna vaccine, your third dose will need to be Moderna, if you’re eligible. If you received the J&J vaccine, there is no booster or third dose currently approved, and you should not get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a booster or third dose.

If I’ve had COVID-19, will I need a booster shot or third dose?

  • The first thing you need to know is that people are better protected after being fully vaccinated than by having had COVID-19.
  • One study has shown that unvaccinated people who already had COVID-19 are more than 2 times as likely than fully-vaccinated people to get COVID-19 again.

Will people who received the J&J vaccine need a booster?

  • For now, booster shots are being advised for those who received the Pfizer vaccine only, and a third dose is being advised for those who are immunocompromised and received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
  • Separate booster recommendations for the J&J vaccine are expected.

Northeast Georgia Health System continues the fight against COVID-19. For the safety of our patients and our community, NGHS recommends getting the COVID-19 vaccine and continuing to wear a mask when in crowds or public. For more information, visit www.nghs.com/covid-19.