Aging Well

Aging Well

Q&A: COVID-19 boosters for 65 and over

Posted September 20, 2021 7:04 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2021 8:34 a.m. EDT

COVID vaccine

Last month, President Biden announced that the booster shots for the Pfizer vaccine would be available on 20 September, as long as they received approval from the FDA and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With the unanimous recommendation Friday by the Food and Drug Administration advisory committee to distribute booster shots of Pfizer - BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine to people age 65 and older and other vulnerable Americans, the country is now waiting to hear what the CDC recommends after its meetings this Wednesday and Thursday.

  1. What research fuels the argument in favor of boosters for those over 65?
    The CDC released data hours before the FDA ruling last Friday showing that the Pfizer vaccine significantly decreased in efficacy, going from 91 percent effective against hospitalizations to 77 percent effective 120 days after receiving one's second dose. (The study examined roughly 3,700 adults with an average age of 68 hospitalized between March and August.) The Moderna vaccine, at 93 percent effective against hospitalizations, remained virtually the same 120 days later, at 92 percent effect.
  2. If the CDC agrees with the FDA's recommendation that those over 65 receive a booster at least six months after their second dose, how soon might this cohort be able to start receiving boosters?
    Booster doses will be available soon after the FDA and CDC approve the plan. (You can sign up to be alerted when they are available here: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines
  3. Can I get the flu shot and the booster at the same time?
    Yes. While earlier, out of caution, experts recommended waiting at least 14 days between getting one's flu shot and their COVID vaccine or booster, after reviewing numerous studies, the CDC agrees it is safe to get both at the same time. The CDC recommends everyone get the flu vaccine by the end of October.
  4. Will I have double the side-effects if I get both at the same time?
    No. The studies show that if you get them at the same time, people don’t get double the side effects. Of course, you might feel a little sore or run-down, but the side effects are not any more severe if you get both together. In fact, some vaccine producers (like Moderna) announced plans to make a single vaccine combining the flu and covid shot in the future, but for now they are separate.
  5. Where can I get my booster?
    We have over 3,500 sites in North Carolina now. There are many more providers and you don't have to get your booster in the same place you got your original vaccine. (To find out the most convenient location, go to: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines)
  6. When will the Moderna booster become available?
    There is no exact timeframe yet, but Moderna is submitting data on their booster dose which will be reviewed by the FDA and CDC.
  7. When will the Johnson & Johnson booster be available?
    According to the CDC, "more data are expected in the coming weeks. With those data in hand, CDC will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J/Janssen booster shots."
  8. What’s the difference between a 3rd dose and a booster?
    An additional 3rd dose of Pfizer or Moderna is authorized 28 days after the second dose for individuals who are immunocompromised and may not have mounted an immune response after two doses. A booster dose is given some time later (likely 6 months) to provide continued protection after immunity starts to decline from the initial vaccination series. FDA and CDC are still reviewing plans for booster doses and who should receive them.
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