What You Need to Know
- COVID-19 Vaccine booster shots are available for the following Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients who completed their initial series at least 6 months ago:
- 65 years and older
- 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
- 18+ who work in high-risk settings
- 18+ who live in high-risk settings
Data Supporting Need for a Booster Shot
Studies show that after getting vaccinated against COVID-19, protection against the virus may decrease over time and be less able to protect against the Delta variant. Although COVID-19 vaccination for adults aged 65 years and older remains effective in preventing severe disease, recent data [4.7 MB, 88 pages] suggest vaccination is less effective at preventing infection or milder illness with symptoms. Emerging evidence also shows that among healthcare and other frontline workers, vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infections is decreasing over time. This lower effectiveness is likely due to the combination of decreasing protection as time passes since getting vaccinated (e.g., waning immunity) as well as the greater infectiousness of the Delta variant.
Data from a small clinical trial show that a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot increased the immune response in trial participants who finished their primary series 6 months earlier. With an increased immune response, people should have improved protection against COVID-19, including the Delta variant.
Only Certain Populations Initially Vaccinated With the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Can Get a Booster Shot at This Time.
People aged 65 years and older and adults 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should get a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, and can also increase for adults of any age with underlying medical conditions.
Residents aged 18 years and older of long-term care settings should get a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Because residents in long-term care settings live closely together in group settings and are often older adults with underlying medical conditions, they are at increased risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19.
People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may get a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine based on their individual benefits and risks. Adults aged 18–49 years who have underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. However, that risk is likely not as high as it would be for adults aged 50 years and older who have underlying medical conditions. People aged 18–49 years who have underlying medical conditions may get a booster shot after considering their individual risks and benefits. This recommendation may change in the future as more data become available.
People aged 18–64 years at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may get a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine based on their individual benefits and risks. Adults aged 18–64 years who work or reside in certain settings (e.g., health care, schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters) may be at increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, which could be spreading where they work or reside. Since that risk can vary across settings and based on how much COVID-19 is spreading in a community, people aged 18–64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may get a booster shot after considering their individual risks and benefits. This recommendation may change in the future as more data become available.
Occupations at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission include front line essential workers and health care workers as previously detailed by the CDC*
- First responders (healthcare workers, firefighters, police, congregate care staff)
- Education staff (teachers, support staff, daycare workers)
- Food and agriculture workers
- Manufacturing workers
- Corrections workers
- U.S. Postal Service workers
- Public transit workers
- Grocery store workers
*List could be updated in the future
Frequently Asked Questions
When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster if I am NOT in one of the recommended groups?
Additional populations may be recommended to receive a booster shot as more data become available. The COVID-19 vaccines approved and authorized in the United States continue to be effective at reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Experts are looking at all available data to understand how well the vaccines are working for different populations. This includes looking at how new variants, like Delta, affect vaccine effectiveness.
What should people who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J/Janssen) vaccine do?
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC’s recommendations are bound by what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorizationexternal icon allows. At this time, the Pfizer-BioNTech booster authorization only applies to people whose primary series was Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People in the recommended groups who got the Moderna or J&J/Janssen vaccine will likely need a booster shot. More data on the effectiveness and safety of Moderna and J&J/Janssen booster shots are expected soon. With those data in hand, CDC will keep the public informed with a timely plan for Moderna and J&J/Janssen booster shots.
If we need a booster shot, does that mean that the vaccines aren’t working?
No. COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, public health experts are starting to see reduced protection, especially among certain populations, against mild and moderate disease.
What are the risks to getting a booster shot?
So far, reactions reported pdf icon[4.7 MB, 88 pages] after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot were similar to that of the 2-shot primary series. Fatigue and pain at the injection site were the most commonly reported side effects, and overall, most side effects were mild to moderate. However, as with the 2-shot primary series, serious side effects are rare, but may occur.
Am I still considered “fully vaccinated” if I don’t get a booster shot?
Yes. Everyone is still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a 2-shot series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as the J&J/Janssen vaccine.
Vaccination Card and Booster Shots
At your first vaccination appointment, you should have received a vaccination card that tells you what COVID-19 vaccine you received, the date you received it, and where you received it. Bring this vaccination card to your booster shot vaccination appointment.
- Bring your vaccination card with you to your appointment so your provider can fill in the information about your booster shot.
- Keep your vaccination card in case you need it for future use. Consider taking a picture of your vaccination card after your booster shot appointment as a backup copy.
- If you did not receive a COVID-19 vaccination 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.
- If you have lost your vaccination card or don’t have a copy, contact your vaccination provider directly to access your vaccination record.
- If you cannot contact your vaccination provider directly, contact your state health department’s immunization information system (IIS). You can find state IIS information on the CDC website. Vaccination providers are required to report COVID-19 vaccinations to their IIS and related systems.
- If you enrolled in v-safe or VaxText after your first or second vaccine dose, you can access your vaccination information using those tools.
- If you have made every effort to locate your vaccination information, are unable to get a copy or replacement of your vaccination card, and still need an additional dose, talk to a vaccination provider.
CDC does not maintain vaccination records or determine how vaccination records are used, and CDC does not provide the CDC-labeled white COVID-19 vaccination record card to people. These cards are distributed to vaccination providers by state health departments.
Please contact your state health department if you have additional questions about vaccination records. Your local or state health department can also provide more information about the laws or regulations in your area.