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Do you need a COVID-19 booster shot?

New recommendations and eligibility

This article was last updated on Sept. 27, 2021. 

We’re now a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, and unfortunately, the virus doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The highly contagious delta variant External Site is the most dominant variant in the United States External Site. And now, there are new vaccination recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19. These recommendations impact different groups of people. Here's a quick rundown of what has happened and who's eligible right now. 

August 2021: People with moderately or severely suppressed immune systems

In August of 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a third dose External Site of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine for people with moderate or severe immunosuppression External Site. People with these types of health conditions need a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least four weeks after their second dose. This is necessary because it takes three doses to complete their initial vaccine series External Site due to their weakened immune system.

Only three percent of the population actually falls into this group. So, if you've had an organ or bone marrow transplant, have an active HIV infection without effective treatment, have a certain type of cancer, or you're on routine steroid therapy, talk to your personal doctor about your eligibility.

September 2021: Booster shot news

As the name might suggest, booster shots boost your level of protection from COVID-19 to the level you were protected after your initial vaccination. Right now, only one manufacturer — Pfizer — has been authorized by the FDA External Site and recommended by the the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) External Site for booster doses. 

The FDA and CDC approve booster doses for vaccines when the manufacturer proves its safety and efficacy. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have not yet been approved for a booster shot — but approval is expected soon.

People who are in one of the three groups described below, and have completed their initial vaccine series with Pfizer at least six months ago, can get a Pfizer booster dose now:

  1. Individuals 65 years old and over, or living in long-term care settings
  2. Adults age 18-64 years old with certain medical conditions External Site like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cancer, chronic lung or kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and certain disabilities that put them at a high risk of serious illness
  3. Adults working in health care or other occupations that put them at high risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, such as teachers and day care staff, grocery store workers and people who work in homeless shelters or prisons

“In the future, it is possible booster shots will be authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC for all people. But, if you're six months out from your second Pfizer dose, and in one of the three groups for whom a booster shot is recommended, you can now get that booster shot.”

Dr. Barbara Muller, medical director at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield

How the booster shot improves your immunity to COVID-19

An initial two-dose vaccine builds your immune response to COVID-19. That response still provides a high degree of protection against severe infection. A booster shot reminds your immune system that it needs to protect you if you’re exposed to the SARS-COV-2 coronavirus.

Scientists believe that the initial two-dose vaccine series offers at least six months of immunity. Similar to other vaccines, like the seasonal flu shot or whooping cough vaccine, immunity goes down over time.

The COVID-19 booster shot and your health insurance

Just like the initial COVID-19 vaccine, the booster will be covered by a Wellmark health insurance plan at no out-of-pocket cost to you. For more information on the COVID vaccine and other benefit information related to the pandemic, visit Opens New Window. You can also check out our coronavirus articles here on Blue.