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Do you need a COVID-19 booster shot?

New recommendations and eligibility

This article was last updated on Jan. 7, 2022. 

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.

Booster shot news and eligibility

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, all vaccine manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — have been authorized by the FDA External Site and recommended by 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.

Anyone age 18 years and older and have completed their initial vaccine series with Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago, can get a Pfizer or Moderna booster dose now. In addition, the CDC recommends adolescents ages 12 to 17 External Site receive a booster shot five months after getting their second Pfizer shot. 

If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago and are over the age of 18, you're also eligible for a booster now. According to the CDC, your booster can be any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized in the United States.

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.