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

Posted: Thursday, October 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 purpose of a 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.

When it comes to booster shots, some restrictions apply depending on which shot you received.

Pfizer or Moderna

Several groups who received their second dose (or third dose, if eligible) of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months ago are eligible for a booster shot. These groups include:

  • Individuals 65 and older
  • Long-Term Care residents
  • Anyone 18+ years of age with underlying medical conditions
  • Individuals 18+ years of age who work in settings that make them high-risk for contracting COVID-19

Johnson & Johnson

Those who are 18+ years old and received their Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at least 2 months ago are eligible for a booster shot.

What is the third dose?

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.

If you are immunocompromised and received your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days ago, you are eligible for a third dose. Being immunocompromised includes people who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

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

Yes, you can now “mix-and-match” COVID-19 booster shots — meaning that your booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine does not need to be the same as your original series. The booster shot can be chosen based on availability, your provider’s recommendation or your own preference. However, this does not apply to third doses.

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

Even if you’ve had COVID-19, it is recommended that you get the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as a booster shot or third dose if you’re eligible. The most important thing to remember is that people are better protected after being fully vaccinated than just 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.

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.

Will the booster shot or third dose be free?

Yes, it will be free and accessible to the public.