COVID-19 booster frequently asked questions

Common questions related to COVID-19 vaccine booster doses.

Table of Contents

What is a booster?

Do I need a booster?

COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in lowering the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. They even work against variants. The CDC has found that this protection may wear off over time. Boosters keep the vaccines effective for longer.

Am I fully vaccinated without a booster?

You are fully vaccinated without a booster if it has been at least 2 weeks since you got your first J&J shot or your second Pfizer or Moderna shot, according to the CDC.

Am I considered “up to date” without a booster?

As with vaccines for other diseases, people are best protected against infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 when they stay up to date with vaccinations.

A person is up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination if they have received all recommended doses in the primary series and one booster when eligible. Getting a second booster is not necessary to be considered up to date at this time.

Is the booster free?

Yes, the booster is free. You do not need to pay, have ID, or have health insurance to get a booster.

If I need a booster shot, does that mean that the vaccines aren’t working?

No. COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating variants. However, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection, especially among certain populations, against mild and moderate disease.

People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have specific COVID-19 vaccine recommendations, including recommendations for a booster. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.

Eligibility

COVID-19 boosters are available. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson boosters are safe and effective, free, and available near you. You don't need an ID, health insurance, or vaccine card. Use VaxFinder.mass.gov to find a location. Some people are not eligible for a second booster shot. Check to see if you're eligible.

Who is eligible to get a booster?

CDC recommends everyone ages 12 years and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series. Some people can receive two boosters.

1st booster

  • Everyone age 12 and older can get a booster after they have had their primary vaccine series:
    • At least 5 months after completion of an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) vaccine primary series
    • At least 2 months after completion of a Janssen/J&J primary dose.

2nd booster

  • Anyone age 50 and older may get a 2nd booster at least 4 months after their 1st booster
  • Anyone age 12 and older with certain medical conditions may get a 2nd booster at least 4 months after their 1st booster
  • Anyone age 18-49 years with certain medical conditions, and who received Janssen/J&J COVID-19 Vaccine as both their primary series dose and their booster dose, at least 4 months after the first Janssen booster dose

Three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized or approved for use in the United States to prevent COVID-19. You can mix and match vaccines. Your booster does not need to be the same vaccine brand as your original COVID-19 vaccination. If you are ages 12-17, you can only get a Pfizer booster. Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (COVID-19 mRNA vaccines) are preferred. You may get Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in some situations.

  Primary series COVID-19 vaccine: Pfizer-BioNTech

Who should get one booster

Everyone 12 years and older
Who can get a second booster Adults 50 years and older
When to get your booster

At least 5 months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series

If eligible for a second booster, at least 4 months after your first booster

Which booster should you get?
  • Adults 18 years and older should get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) for the first booster in most* situations
  • The second booster must be an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine
  • Teens 12–17 years old may only get a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster
  Primary series COVID-19 vaccine: Moderna

Who should get one booster

Adults 18 years and older
Who can get a second booster Adults 50 years and older
When to get your booster

At least 5 months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series

If eligible for a second booster, at least 4 months after your first booster

Which booster should you get?

For the first booster, an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) is preferred in most* situations

The second booster must be an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine

  Primary series COVID-19 vaccine: Johnson & Johnson's Janssen*

Who should get one booster

Adults 18 years and older
Who can get a second booster

Anyone who received a J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for both their primary dose and booster

Adults 50 years and older who first received a J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of what type of booster they received

When to get your booster

At least 2 months after receiving your J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccination

If eligible for a second booster, at least 4 months after your first booster

Which booster should you get?

For the first booster, an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) is preferred in most* situations

The second booster must be an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine

*Although mRNA vaccines are preferred for the first booster, J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine may be considered in some situations.

Use VaxFinder to find a pharmacy or other location to get your booster.

Can I mix and match my booster dose?

Yes. Three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized or approved for use in the United States to prevent COVID-19. You can mix and match vaccines. Your booster does not need to be the same vaccine brand as your original COVID-19 vaccination. If you are ages 12-17, you can only get a Pfizer booster. Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (COVID-19 mRNA vaccines) are preferred. You may get Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in some situations. The Administration recommends that residents with questions about which booster is right for them should ask their health care provider for advice.

Do I need to be a Massachusetts resident to get a booster? What if I lived somewhere else when I got my initial COVID-19 vaccine doses?

You can get a booster in Massachusetts if you live, work or study here.

What if I don’t know when I received my last COVID-19 vaccine shot?

To learn when you are eligible for a booster dose, you should consult your CDC vaccination record card for the date of your second COVID-19 vaccination. If you do not have your vaccination card, contact your primary care provider or the retail pharmacy where you were first vaccinated. If that is not possible, learn how to obtain your vaccination record, which could take up to 2 weeks, by visiting www.mass.gov/myvaxrecord.

How can I find out which vaccine I received?

If you do not have your vaccination card, contact your primary care provider or the retail pharmacy where you were first vaccinated. If that is not possible, learn how to obtain your vaccination record, which could take up to 2 weeks, by visiting www.mass.gov/myvaxrecord.

If I have already had COVID, should I still get a booster? 

Yes. Getting a COVID-19 booster gives most people a high level of protection against COVID-19 even in people who have already been sick with COVID-19.

After having COVID, how long do I need to wait to get a booster?

You should wait until your 10-day period of isolation is over and any symptoms have improved.  This to ensure that you don’t spread COVID-19 to others.

Should I still get a booster if I received a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID? How long do I need to wait to get a booster after treatment?

Yes. Per CDC, individuals who received monoclonal antibodies for treatment of COVID-19 should get a booster when eligible and do not need to wait to receive a COVID-19 booster.

Getting a booster

How do I get a booster?

There are hundreds of locations across the Commonwealth for residents to receive a COVID-19 booster shot.

In order to find a convenient location for getting a COVID-19 Booster:

  • Visit the VaxFinder tool at vaxfinder.mass.gov for a list of locations to receive a booster. Residents will be able to narrow results to search for locations that are offering the booster of their choice.
  • If you are unable to use VaxFinder, or have difficulty accessing the internet, please contact the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line (Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) by calling 2-1-1 and following the prompts. The COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line is available in English and Spanish and has translators available in approximately 100 additional languages.

Do I need to show my vaccine card or other proof of being fully vaccinated to get my booster?

If you have your vaccine card it is helpful so that your booster dose can be added to it, but you do not need to show your CDC vaccination card to get your booster. You will be asked to self-attest that you meet eligibility requirements such as age, health conditions, or occupation. 

There are no ID, or health insurance requirements. Your vaccinator may choose to look up your vaccine records to confirm the type of vaccine you received before.

I got vaccinated at a MassVax site, where do I go to get my booster dose?

You can get a booster shot anywhere they are available including your primary care provider, a retail pharmacy or a community vaccination clinic. Or you can use VaxFinder to find a location.

Can I just walk-in or do I need to book an appointment?

Walk-ins and appointments will be available at retail pharmacies, however, residents are encouraged to book an appointment via VaxFinder or directly with their provider.

Can I book an appointment by calling 2-1-1?

Yes. Individuals without access to the internet or who are unable to schedule their appointment online can call the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line toll free 2-1-1 or 877-211-6277 for assistance with setting up an appointment.

Can I get my booster vaccine at home?

Yes. If you have trouble getting to a vaccine clinic, you can use the In-Home Vaccination Program. Visit http://mass.gov/vaccinesathome for more information.

Should people expect to get sick after the third dose?

Current data indicates that side effects following the additional dose are similar to those after the second dose. Common side effects are generally mild such as localized pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, and fatigue, headache, and low-grade fever. Serious adverse events are rare.

Can I get a flu vaccination at the same time as my COVID-19 booster?

Yes. You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccinations like a flu or shingles vaccine at the same time or close together, according to the CDC.

FAQ on COVID-19 Boosters - in multiple languages

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