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?

Staying up to date on vaccines, including boosters, is the most effective way to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. While vaccine protection decreases over time, boosters restimulate the immune system and increase vaccine efficacy again. Boosters are an important defense, even if you’ve already had COVID.

What are the updated boosters that were just approved? 

The updated (bivalent) boosters are called “bivalent” because they protect against both the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5.

Previous boosters are called “monovalent” because they were designed to protect against the original virus that causes COVID-19. They also provide some protection against Omicron, but not as much as the updated (bivalent) boosters.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has changed over time. The different versions of the virus that have developed over time are called variants. Learn more about variants of the COVID-19 virus.

Two COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, have developed updated (bivalent) COVID-19 boosters. 

Who should get an updated booster?    

People ages 6 months and older are recommended to receive 1 updated (bivalent mRNA) booster dose after completion of any primary series or previously received monovalent booster dose(s) with the following exception: children 6 months–4 years who receive a 3-dose Pfizer-BioNTech primary series are not authorized to receive a booster dose at this time regardless of which Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (i.e., a monovalent or bivalent) was administered for the third primary series dose. Monovalent mRNA vaccines are not authorized as a booster dose.

For people ages 6 years and older, your booster vaccine does NOT need to be the same as your primary series – “mix & match” is OK.

The recommendations can vary based on your age and which product you get. Discuss options with your healthcare provider or vaccine administrator, or learn more here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/stay-up-to-date.html

Learn more about booster eligibility.

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.  

When and where can I get the updated booster?   

Updated boosters are available now. You can get boosters where you received previous vaccines, including doctor’s offices, hospitals, pharmacies, and community health clinics.  

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, Moderna or Novavax 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 doses in the primary series and all boosters recommended, when eligible. 

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

Who is eligible to get a booster?

CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series.   

People ages 6 months and older are recommended to receive 1 updated (bivalent mRNA) booster dose after completion of any primary series or previously received monovalent booster dose(s) with the following exception: children 6 months–4 years who receive a 3-dose Pfizer-BioNTech primary series are not authorized to receive a booster dose at this time regardless of which Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (i.e., a monovalent or bivalent) was administered for the third primary series dose. Monovalent mRNA vaccines are not authorized as a booster dose.

For people ages 6 years and older, your booster vaccine does NOT need to be the same as your primary series – “mix & match” is OK.

Discuss options with your healthcare provider or use this CDC tool to determine when or if you (or your child) can get one or more COVID-19 boosters — Find out when you can get your booster.  

Can I mix and match my booster dose?

Yes, if you are age 6 years or older. For people ages 6 years and older, your booster vaccine does NOT need to be the same as your primary series – “mix & match” is OK.   

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.

COVID-19 Boosters - Fast Facts - in multiple languages

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