COVID-19

FAQ: When's the Best Time to Get a Booster? Do You Need It If You've Recovered From COVID?

Answering some of your most common questions

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Some of the most frequent questions News4 has received regarding COVID-19 vaccines are about how long they last, when to get a booster shot and how COVID infection plays a role in a person's immunity.

Here's what health experts say:

How long does protection from a COVID vaccine last?

Scientists say the data isn’t final yet, but it's apparent that vaccine effectiveness starts to wain after several months. Health experts say that's why all adults are encouraged to get a booster five months after their second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine and two months after their Johnson and Johnson shot.

Kids 12 and older are eligible for a Pfizer booster five months after completing their primary series. Those who are immunocompromised can get a booster three months after the third dose of their Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

"The booster really wakes up your immune system and reminds it of what it has to do.
People don’t have to go back and do their primary series if they have missed out and it’s been months since they’ve been eligible. They can go out tomorrow and get their booster and it will have the same impact and the same benefit for them," Dr. Terry Fairbanks, the chief quality and safety officer for MedStar Health, said.

Do I need to wait to get a vaccine or booster if I've recently recovered from COVID-19?

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Fairbanks says it’s not too late to get vaccinated or boosted — regardless of whether you’ve recently had a COVID infection.

"There’s no waiting period after the disease. As long as people are better, then they can go and get the booster right away and we do recommend that they do that," he said.

Natural immunity from COVID can last up to 90 days, but Fairbanks said the booster offers more robust and longer lasting protection, helping to dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

Despite the benefits, only 42% of fully-vaccinated Americans who are eligible for a booster shot have actually gotten one.

Researchers say it's not clear yet if people will need another booster or if we’ll treat COVID the same way we do the flu with an annual shot.

Some countries such as Israel have started offering a fourth dose to older adults but health experts in the U.S. say it’s too soon to tell if it’s an effective strategy. They said it could be several more months before we know for sure, but it is something the CDC is watching closely.

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