When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a second booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the agency made it optional, leaving many people wondering whether they should get another shot.
So how should eligible people decide whether to get another dose?
"This second booster is safe, and that's the most important thing to know when making your decision," said infectious disease specialist Soniya Gandhi, MD, associate chief medical officer and vice president of Medical Affairs at Cedars-Sinai. "While we only have preliminary data showing that this dose reduces the risk of hospitalization and death in certain high-risk populations, we don't know what's coming with the contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2. So it's important to try and protect vulnerable people and give them this option."
Gandhi walked the Cedars-Sinai Newsroom through key questions that can help people decide whether they will get the second booster.
Are you eligible?
The FDA has authorized the second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for four groups of people four months after they received their initial booster:
- Adults 50 and older
- Immunocompromised individuals 12 and older (eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech second booster)
- Immunocompromised individuals 18 and older (eligible for Moderna second booster)
- Adults ages 18 to 49 who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for both their primary shot and initial booster dose
What should you consider?
Gandhi recommended assessing the following criteria when determining whether to get a second booster shot:
- Personal Risk: Do you have health conditions that put you at higher risk for severe illness, hospitalization or even death?
- Vulnerable People Around You: Do you live with older adults? Are you caring for a cancer patient who is on chemotherapy?
- Risk Tolerance: How cautious are you about avoiding COVID-19?
- Travel: Will you be visiting areas where COVID-19 is spreading, spending lots of time in close proximity to others while you travel?
- Community Spread: Is the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading widely and rapidly in your area?
"If you are eligible for the booster and trying to work through all these factors, speak with your healthcare provider, who can help guide you through these decisions," Gandhi said.
What if you recently had COVID-19?
The same guidance that applied to previous doses of the vaccine apply here as well, Gandhi said. If you recently had COVID-19, you can get your second booster as soon as you are no longer infectious—10 days after symptom onset or 10 days after the day you tested positive, whichever comes first.
Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy