Posted February 24, 2022 by Charles A. Zonfa, MD, FACOG | Chief Medical Office
The COVID-19 vaccine is a proven way to protect individuals from severe illness, hospitalization and even death from the virus in most cases.
However, recent studies have shown that immunity from the initial COVID-19 vaccine series begins to wane over time, especially in people aged 65 and older. The COVID-19 booster vaccine is an additional dose of the vaccine to help people maintain their level of immunity.
That’s why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are recommending a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.
But before you roll up your sleeve, SummaCare answers some common questions about the COVID-19 booster vaccine and additional ways to protect yourself and others against the virus. Getting the vaccine, masking, testing and social distancing continue to be important steps to reducing the spread and resuming your activities prior to the pandemic.
Am I eligible to receive a booster?
The COVID-19 booster shot is recommended for the following people:
Does my booster have to be from the same manufacturer I got before?
The FDA recommends the Pfizer or Moderna booster vaccines in most situations and has determined it’s safe to receive a COVID-19 booster vaccine that is from a different manufacturer than your initial dose. Meaning, you can mix and match manufacturer’s vaccines.
Are there side effects from the booster?
As with the primary vaccine series, you may experience minor, temporary side effects, including pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever, body aches, headache and fatigue. Serious side effects are extremely rare.
You cannot get a COVID-19 infection from the booster vaccine. Side effects simply mean your body is responding to the vaccine and building protection against COVID-19.
Does the booster contain the same ingredients as the current vaccines?
Yes, the booster vaccines contain the same ingredients as the current COVID-19 vaccines. In the case of Moderna, however, the dose is half of the amount of the vaccine people receive for their primary series.
Are there additional ways to protect myself and others against COVID-19?
Yes. In addition to vaccination, COVID-19 testing, masking and social distancing are important ways to protect yourself and others to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Testing is recommended if you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or had a known exposure to someone who tested positive. You also might consider testing before joining an indoor gathering with others who do not live in your household.
In addition, the CDC continues to recommend everyone older than age 2 wear a mask in indoor public places if they’re not fully vaccinated, have weakened immune systems or are in a place with possible high transmission.
Are free test kits and masks available?
In recent weeks, the federal government has increased its response to the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases by offering free at-home test kits and N95 masks.
Every home in the United States is now eligible to order four rapid at-home COVID-19 test kits. The tests are completely free and will ship directly to your home address in about 7 – 12 days. You can order your free at-home test kits online or by calling 1.800.232.0233.
In addition, the government is distributing free certified N95 masks, which have been shown to filter up to 95 percent of particles in the air. Each person is eligible for three masks at a time, and more than one person per household can get them. You don’t have to have insurance to get them.
Most major pharmacies and community healthcare centers, including Rite-Aid, Walgreens and CVS, that participated in the government’s free vaccine program are pickup sites for the free mask program.
The pandemic may still be ongoing, but there are ways to resume activities while still protecting yourself and others against infection.