A: Booster doses of a vaccine are very common in the field of vaccines. Boosting means getting another dose of vaccine at a different time after the initial dose(s) of a vaccine, which scientists call the “priming” stage. It’s like wall paint: priming coat, maybe a second priming coat, followed by another boosting coat. For vaccines, the boost is weeks, months, or years later, rather than a day or two for wall paint. Like a second coat of paint, the boosting improves upon the priming.
Most vaccines we get have boosting components. For hepatitis B, babies get the vaccine at 1, 2 and 6 months. The 6-month vaccine is the boost. For the measles vaccine, children get it at about 12 or 15 months and then the boost 5 years later when they enter elementary school. For tetanus, you get a booster every 10 or so years.
The additional doses given to immunocompromised individuals are to improve their immune response to the initial vaccine series. They often do not build enough, or any, protection against the virus from the original vaccination.
A: For mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), the FDA and ACIP both recommend boosting for all people 65 years of age and older, for people from 18-64 with comorbidities for severe COVID-19, and for those whose occupational exposure puts them at high risk of COVID-19.
For the J&J vaccine, they recommend a second dose of vaccine for all people over age 18 who received the initial dose. People who had any complications from the initial J&J vaccination such as venous thrombosis should get a second dose of an mRNA vaccine rather than a second dose of the J&J vaccine.
A: The FDA recommends getting a booster at least 6 months after completion of the initial series of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. The J&J booster is recommended at least 2 months after the initial J&J vaccine.
A: Boosters are important for 2 main reasons. (1) The Delta variant is more infectious and therefore vaccinated people are becoming infected. (2) The booster dose increases the antibodies and T cells that the body makes as a result of vaccination. The levels are higher than after the initial vaccination. These responses are what protect people from infection and disease.
A: No. The US government is using the booster doses from our national stockpile. The doses have been bought already and these doses are restricted by contract for use in the US. The US has contracted out with Pfizer, Moderna and J&J to buy doses for donation to other countries. The US government has donated more than 1 billion doses of vaccines so far.
A: The best data on efficacy and safety are from using the same booster as the vaccine you received. There are small studies in which other manufacturers’ vaccines have been used as a boost: the “mix and match” studies. Those data show the antibody responses are increased by mix and matching. So, the FDA has authorized mix and match booster doses. This means that your booster vaccine does not have to be made by the same company as your initial vaccine(s).
A: As long as the vaccine has been approved by the FDA, it is safe. This includes the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and J&J.
A: Right now, there is no evidence that a “mix and match” booster dose will provide more benefit than getting a booster that is the same as the initial vaccination.
A: The half dose still enhances the levels of T cells and antibodies to much higher levels than after the 2 initial doses at full dosage. Several other vaccines have boosted well with “fractional dosing.” This is not a new concept in vaccinology.
A: We don’t know how long it will last. Much of this relates to how much the virus changes. We need to continue to study people’s responses to see how long they last.
A: Your side effects will most likely be like those you had when you got your original vaccination. There is no evidence so far that the side effects will be worse with the boosters.
A: Booster doses are done in the same system as the initial vaccinations.
A: You should bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record card when you get your booster, and it will be documented there. If you did not receive a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record card at your first appointment, contact the vaccination site where you got your first shot or your state health department to find out how you can get a card. Learn more about what to do if you need a copy of your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record card.
A: No. COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the Delta variant. However, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection against mild and moderate disease, especially among certain populations.
A: Additional groups of people may be recommended to receive a booster shot as more data become available.
A: The booster vaccines are not different from the original vaccinations. They have all shown protection against the variants, including Delta.
A: Booster doses of all three EUA vaccines (Moderna, J&J and Pfizer) increase immune responses and provide additional efficacy compared to not getting a booster.
A: It is true that vaccines often have side effects, but those are typically temporary (like a sore arm, low fever, muscle aches and pains) and go away after a day or two. Many studies have proven that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more answers to questions about Vaccine Safety such as:
A: It is true that the search for vaccines and monoclonal antibodies against COVID-19 has been happening very quickly, but we’re not cutting any corners or skipping any steps. Read COVID-19 Vaccines: How Did We Get Them So Fast? to learn more.
A: Usually, the 2nd dose of an mRNA vaccine will cause more noticeable side effects, but everyone’s experience is different.3
A: Rest, and in some cases, over-the-counter medication (examples: acetaminophen, ibuprofen) might help if you have a fever or aches and pains. These medicines should not be used before getting a vaccine, only afterward to treat side effects.3
A: The risk of allergic reaction is extremely low. Talk to your doctor if you have a history of allergic reactions or anaphylaxis before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
There are guidelines in place that may require you to be observed for more than 15 minutes after vaccination in the event of a reaction so that it can be immediately treated.7
A: No, it is not possible for the mRNA vaccines to impact a person’s DNA in any way. mRNA is a piece of genetic code that tells the muscle cells to make the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 and display it for the immune system to see. You can think of this like a recipe for making food, which has the step by step directions. The vaccine doesn’t have any real ingredients that could cause infection, just the instructions. The vaccine goes to work in the outer part of muscle cells, and does not cross into the nucleus, where people’s DNA is located. You may also know that the mRNA vaccines need to be stored at very cold temperatures to keep them stable. This is because when they heat up, the mRNA starts to fall apart. Once the vaccine is given to a person, it starts to heat up in the body, and it dissolves within 1-3 days.
A: Yes. People who want to get pregnant in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Based on current knowledge, experts believe that COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to a person trying to become pregnant in the short or long term. Scientists study every vaccine carefully for side effects immediately and for years afterward, and people who get vaccinated track their symptoms. The COVID-19 vaccines are being studied carefully now, and the side effects data will continue to be studied for many years, similar to other vaccines.
There is currently no evidence that antibodies formed from COVID-19 vaccination cause any problems with pregnancy. In addition, there is no evidence suggesting that fertility problems are a side effect of ANY vaccine. People who are trying to become pregnant now or who plan to try in the future may receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. 2
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has answers to more questions you may have. Find answers on the CDC website:
A: 10 microgram dose, 1/3 of the adult dose.
A: Studies looking at a range of doses in this age group were done last spring. The studies looked at both side effects and immune responses.
A: The most common are local side effects including pain, swelling, and tenderness on the arm where the vaccine was given. Fever and other side effects like headache, fatigue and nausea can occur but are less common in children than adults. Less than 7% of children had a fever. Side effects were more common after the second dose.
The CDC Vsafe and VAERS programs closely monitor reported side effects in children and adults. There are several other studies being conducted in the United States that are looking at side effects. All of the available data indicate that the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks, including the risks associated with children having COVID-19.
A: We have not seen myocarditis following vaccines in 5–11-year-old children, but data are only available for approximately 3,100 children. Myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccines is most common in people assigned male at birth, ages 16 to 25, and has been seen very rarely in children ages 12 to 15, including boys. The CDC reports that the risk for myocarditis in teenagers (12-15 year olds) assigned male at birth after the 2nd dose of vaccine is estimated to be 20-60 cases per 1 million doses (approximately .002% to .006% of vaccinated children).
The risk of heart problems including myocarditis in children admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 is much higher (about 2-10% of admitted children) and generally much more serious than the risk of myocarditis after the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
A: No. There is no evidence of this in animals or adults either.
A: No. The mRNA vaccine does not enter the cell nucleus, which is where your DNA is located. The vaccine is only able to deliver the instructions that teach your body how to recognize the virus, and it breaks down naturally within a few days after vaccination.
A: 4500 children ages 5-11 years participated in the study.
A: Children were in the study for 2-5 months, which started in June 2021.
A: The data from studies in children ages 5-11 showed that this dosage is safe and effective. This is reinforced by the strong safety profile of the Pfizer vaccine in adolescents, teenagers, and adults, with more than 400 million doses given. Children ages 5-11 made similar antibody responses as adults do. The children participating in the Pfizer study will continue in the study for a total of two years so that their safety can continue to be monitored, and updates will be shared as they become available.
A: We have good data on thousands of children who have participated in the research studies, although it is true that follow-up in children has not been for as much time as adults. This follows the usual vaccine process. After you establish safety and efficacy in adults, you then move to teenagers and young adults, then older children, followed by younger children and infants.
Children ages 5-11 can get sick with COVID-19. Although most won’t be hospitalized or need the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), right now COVID-19 is the 8th leading cause of death in children. Sometimes they can get really sick. Children with COVID-19 are hospitalized all the time and require oxygen or breathing machines or even heart-lung support. This disease is preventable with vaccines and it’s important to know that thousands of children have gotten very sick already in the US alone. There is no way to predict who will get sick with more serious symptoms, although we do know that some children who have other medical conditions or who are overweight tend to get sicker.
In addition, children can spread the virus to their families and especially people like their grandparents, who are at even higher risk of serious disease or death due to COVID-19. Right now, with the Delta variant of virus going around that is very contagious, it is much better to get your child immunized now rather than waiting.
A: We don’t know yet. This can only be learned by the ongoing participation of children in the research studies. Studies in adults have already shown that the immune responses, like making antibodies, that people have from the vaccines last longer than the natural antibodies people make from having COVID-19. As new data is learned from the research, we will continue to make it available.
A: No. Immunity from SARS-CoV-2 infection in children is not long lasting. Immunity from SARS-CoV-2 infection appears to be related to how sick one gets, and children generally have less severe disease and therefore have less antibodies to protect them. Antibodies made in response to the vaccine are much higher and block the virus so that it cannot infect people’s cells. In studies at Seattle Children’s Hospital, antibodies after having COVID-19 go down pretty quickly over the first 6 months after infection. With this in mind, and knowing the safety data from the research, it is safer for children to get vaccinated rather than waiting to see if they will get COVID-19.
Among children who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection and were then vaccinated, their antibody levels were higher after vaccination. Because of this, it is also recommended that children who have already had COVID-19 should be vaccinated as well.
A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified in people. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by the new virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
A: COVID-19 can affect anyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity. However, data show that it is disproportionately impacting Black/African American, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian populations. This is largely due to social and structural factors that impact some communities more than others. These factors include poverty, poor housing conditions, challenges with accessing medical care, and limited resources, among others.
A: No. Antibiotics help stop bacterial infections and are not effective against viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.1
A: No. Some people who do get SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, experience flu-like symptoms. COVID-19 currently has a higher death rate than the flu and appears to be more contagious than the flu.2 We do not know yet whether COVID-19 will change with the seasons like influenza. In the US, the CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months and over receive an influenza vaccine every year.
A: Yes. Scientists have found that people who have SARS-CoV-2 and have no symptoms (i.e., asymptomatic) can still pass along SARS-CoV-2 to others.2 In fact, people infected with SARS-CoV-2 seem to be most infectious before they even show signs and symptoms.
A: Depending on your age, health history, and how long you have had COVID-19 symptoms, you may qualify for treatment with a monoclonal antibody. Treatment with a monoclonal antibody can reduce the amount of the SARS-CoV-2 in the body. Having a lower amount of virus in the body means you may have milder COVID-19 symptoms and decrease the likelihood of being hospitalized or dying.
Monoclonal antibody treatment may help people who:
Currently, the following monoclonal antibodies have been authorized for emergency treatment use by the FDA for people who are 12 years or older, who weigh at least 88 pounds, and are at high risk for severe COVID-19:
Monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 may only be administered by licensed medical providers. Please speak with your medical provider or contact your local or state public health department for more information.
Learn more about monoclonal antibodies.
Other drugs that may be given to people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 include:
A: Face masks can reduce your chances of getting SARS-CoV-2, but the primary purpose of face masks is to protect others from you in case you are infected, especially if you are not showing symptoms. It is recommended that the public wear well-fitting multi-layer cloth masks, including homemade masks, to help prevent transmitting the virus to other people. You may also want to consider wearing 2 masks, which can offer additional protection if your mask is a little loose and doesn’t fit snugly around your nose and mouth. 4
A: SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted in all areas, including hot/humid and cold climates.1
A: While gargling with warm saltwater can make a sore throat feel better, it has no effect on SARS-CoV-2.5
A: There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, and before eating or preparing food. When in public, wear a well-fitting multi-layer cloth face mask that covers your mouth and nose. You may also want to consider wearing 2 masks, which can offer additional protection if your mask is a little loose and doesn’t fit snugly around your nose and mouth. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.2 Stay 6 feet apart from other people when you are out in public.
A: No. You can help stop COVID-19 by knowing the signs and symptoms, which can include:
Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone you have been exposed to has emergency warning signs, including:
This list of symptoms is NOT all inclusive and is being updated as new information becomes available. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.2
Content last reviewed on December 2, 2021