COVID-19 Q&A: Should I get another booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

April 5, 2022
Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist and the Division of Public Health’s medical director

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended a second booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for certain people who have a higher risk of getting very sick or even dying from the disease.

Getting the booster dose is a personal decision based on your health and how much risk you are comfortable with. If you have questions about this latest recommendation, you should talk about it with your healthcare provider. Getting the vaccine and boosters, if you’re eligible, is still the best, most reliable way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness from COVID-19 requiring hospitalization and death.

Who is eligible for a second booster based on the latest recommendation?

  • If you’re 50 years and older and received an initial COVID-19 booster dose (regardless of which vaccine was used) at least four months ago, you now have the option to receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you’re 12 years and older, moderately or severely immunocompromised, and previously received any booster dose at least four months ago, you now have the option to receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
  • If you’re 18-49 years of age and received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine for the primary dose and booster dose, you now have the option to get a second COVID-19 booster dose using an mRNA vaccine.

Why is another booster being recommended now?

Federal health officials want to make sure people who might be at higher risk have the chance to get a second booster before any possible new wave of disease caused by the Omicron BA.2 variant occurs.  The BA.2 variant has been increasing over the past several weeks and now dominates in the United States. There is also evidence of decreasing immunity months after being vaccinated and boosted.  Some people at high risk will be better protected with another booster dose.

When will other age groups be eligible for another booster dose?

The CDC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other federal partners continue to evaluate the vaccine and disease data, and are evaluating whether more booster doses may be needed for other groups in the future. On April 6, FDA will gather its independent panel of outside experts to discuss another booster for the broader population. CDC also will participate in this public meeting.

Does this recommendation mean the vaccines aren’t working?

No – the vaccines offer a high level of protection against COVID-19 illness and are still the best, most reliable way to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious illness requiring hospitalization and death.

It's important to realize that while these vaccines are highly effective, it is not yet clear whether a series of three or more vaccine doses will be needed for strong and long-lasting protection, or whether regular boosters will be required for optimal protection until newer vaccines are developed that don't require multiple doses. There are other commonly used vaccines (for example, pertussis, tetanus, and hepatitis B ) that require several shots to ensure full and long-lasting protection, so this is not completely unexpected. 

Does this recommendation change the definition of “up to date” on vaccines?

No, the definition of up to date has not changed. A person is up to date when they have received all recommended doses in their primary series of COVID-19 vaccine, and one booster dose when eligible.

For those eligible to receive a second booster dose now, will they be able to get another one this fall?

The FDA and CDC will continue to discuss the data and need for a booster dose this fall. We anticipate those who choose to get a second booster now may be recommended to receive other doses later this year if they are authorized.

In the meantime, with cases of COVID-19 rising again in some parts of the world — and the possibility that the U.S. will have another uptick in COVID-19 cases in the coming months — this update allows people in specific groups to have the option to increase their protection now. Another booster dose could help restore protection that may have decreased over time, and provide peace of mind for those who want optimal protection as soon as possible.

Dr. Christine Hahn is Idaho’s state epidemiologist and the Division of Public Health’s medical director. She is board certified in infectious disease. She also serves on CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and since late February 2020, has been focusing almost solely on responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

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