What’s the difference between a booster shot and a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Coronavirus

FILE – In this Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021 file photo, a nurse loads a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Jackson, Miss. Millions of Americans are now eligible to receive a Pfizer booster shot to help increase their protection against the worst effects of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has authorized booster shots and third doses of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 for certain individuals. Which one you receive, however, depends on several factors.

Third doses of the vaccine are administered to individuals who have vulnerable immune systems that may not have built up sufficient protection against the virus. The goal of a third dose is to “improve immunocompromised people’s response to their initial vaccine series,” according to the CDC’s website. This 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

Individuals who need a third dose must have had the full series of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days prior to a third dose, and their third dose must match their previous vaccinations. At this time, Johnson & Johnson recipients are not eligible for third doses.

Booster shots, however, are intended to combat a decrease in vaccine protection against serious illness in frontline workers and vulnerable populations. These vaccines are for people who are either over 65, have underlying medical conditions or are in settings with an increased risk of exposure and severe illness. Institutions and occupations with increased risk include:

  • Long-term care facilities
  • First responders (healthcare workers, firefighters, police, congregate care staff)
  • Education staff (teachers, support staff, daycare workers)
  • Food and agriculture workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Corrections workers
  • U.S. Postal Service workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Grocery store workers

Currently, booster shots are only approved for those who have received the complete Pfizer vaccination series six months prior to the booster. Those who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are not approved for booster shots yet.

To schedule a vaccine appointment, click here. To find out more about the state of COVID-19 in Alabama, click here.

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