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Six Questions about COVID-19 Boosters

Boosters are now available to millions of Veterans

Veteran receiving COVID-19 booster shotMillions of Veterans who got the COVID-19 vaccine are now eligible for a booster shot. COVID-19 vaccines continue to work well to prevent severe illness and death. A booster can help people whose immune response may have weakened over time stay fully protected. The booster is meant to help the immune system respond quickly if exposed to COVID-19.

Here are answers to 6 questions you may have about these boosters:

1. Who can get a booster?

COVID-19 booster shot is recommended for everyone aged 18 and older. If 6 months have passed since you completed your vaccination series with Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or if you had a Janssen (J and J) vaccine at least 2 months ago, you should schedule a booster today. Adolescents aged 16 or 17 also can now get a booster shot, depending on their individual risks and benefits, with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

People who are 18 and older can “mix and match” their COVID-19 booster. According to the CDC, you can choose which vaccine you prefer, even if it’s not the same one you originally received. If you have a preference of vaccine, check your vaccine or clinic site before you go to make sure they have that type of COVID-19 vaccine.

You can only get a booster shot if you completed your primary vaccination series. If you haven’t completed your primary vaccination series yet, you should, and we can help you. Vaccines are widely available at VA health facilities. Find out how to get your vaccine at VA.

2. Which vaccine can I get for my booster?

At this time, the CDC and FDA have authorized boosters for all three authorized vaccines. Based on new CDC recommendations, you can choose which vaccine to get for your booster. But not all VA health facilities will have all three vaccines. If you have questions about which booster to get, reach out to your health care team.

3. How do I get a booster at VA?

If you're eligible for a booster based on your VA health record, we'll contact you when we have a vaccine for you. If we don't contact you, you can call or send a Secure Message. Your health care team can tell you if you’re eligible for a booster and help you schedule an appointment or find out if there’s a walk-in vaccine clinic near you.

4. What are the risks to getting a booster shot?

So far, reactions reported after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot were similar to those experienced in the 2-shot primary series. Fatigue and pain at the injection site were the most reported side effects. Most side effects were mild to moderate. Like the 2-shot primary series, serious side effects are rare but may occur.

5. Is there a new standard for 'fully vaccinated?'

No. The definition of “fully vaccinated” currently does not include or require booster shots. It focuses on the primary vaccine series, which has the strongest evidence for protecting you from COVID-19.

6. Will a booster protect against new COVID-19 variants?

We don’t yet know how strong protection from the current COVID-19 vaccines will be against the new Omicron variant. The current vaccines offer strong protection against other variants. If we find there’s a variant that current vaccines don’t protect against, you may need an updated vaccine. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting a booster now.

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