(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, as the District remains very focused on ensuring all eligible residents have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Mayor Bowser and DC Health are also encouraging members of the community who are eligible for a booster shot to get their third dose. Previously, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had already recommended that people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system) receive three doses of a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) rather than two doses. This third dose was recommended because sometimes people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised do not build enough (or any) protection when they first get a vaccination.
This week’s recommendations around booster shots are specific to individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine and who received their second dose at least six months ago.
The CDC now recommends:
- people 65 years and older should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;
- people who are residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;
- people aged 50 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series;
- people 18 to 49 who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 due to certain underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks; and
- people aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.
This updated interim guidance from CDC applies to millions of adults in the United States and follows the September 22 decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in support of this allowance. The CDC’s recommendations are bound by what the FDA’s authorization allows. At this time, the FDA’s Pfizer-BioNTech booster authorization only applies to these select populations who received the Pfizer vaccine as their primary series. The CDC’s independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will continue to meet to evaluate new data and may recommend booster shots for other populations and vaccine recipients soon.
Residents who received the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year should start making a plan to receive their booster shot: Find your vaccine card or access your vaccine record by visiting myir.dc.gov, call your healthcare provider to discuss your options for a booster, or visit vaccines.gov to find a location near you. Residents who need support can call 855-363-0333. Eligible residents can go to one of the 153 locations around the city that offer the safe, free, and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
As more information becomes available about the CDC’s recommendations, such as specific occupations that are recommended to receive a booster shot, that information will be posted on coronavirus.dc.gov.
Frequently Asked Questions About Booster Shots
Q: What are the risks to getting a booster?
A: For many who have completed their primary series with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the benefits of getting a booster shot outweigh the known and potential risks. So far, reactions reported after the third Pfizer-BioNTech 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.
Q: Does this change the definition of “fully vaccinated” for those eligible for booster shots?
A: People are 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. This definition applies to all people, including those who receive an additional dose as recommended for moderate to severely immunocompromised people and those who receive a booster shot.
Q: Can you explain these “permissive” recommendations related to people 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions, and people 18 to 64 who may be exposed due to occupational/institutional setting? How are these different from the other recommendations?
A: Adults 18-49 who have underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, as are people 18-64 are in an occupational or institutional setting where the burden of COVID-19 infection and risk of transmission are high. However, that risk is likely not as high as it would be for adults 50 years and older who have underlying medical conditions, or people who live in long-term care settings. Therefore, the CDC’s recommendation is not as strong for these populations, but still allows a booster shot to be available for those who would like to get one. People 18 and older who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions or their occupation should consider their individual risks and benefits when making the decision of whether to get a booster shot. This recommendation may change in the future as more data become available.
Q: Will providers accept anyone who says they’re eligible to receive a booster shot? Will people need to show a doctor’s note/prescription or other documentation?
A: Individuals can self-attest (i.e. self-report that they are eligible) and receive a booster shot wherever vaccines are offered. This will help ensure there are not additional barriers to access for these select populations receiving their booster shot