NEW YORK - Federal health officials with the CDC and the FDA have approved the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for millions of Americans. However, you should be aware of some caveats before you sign up for your shot because the guidance doesn't cover everyone.
What did the CDC and FDA do?
These federal agencies approved the administering of a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to certain populations at least six months after the completion of the first set of injections. In other words, they OK'd getting a third shot at least half a year after your second shot.
What vaccine does this cover?
Only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. These actions do not apply to either the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccines.
Who is covered by this guidance? In other words, who is eligible for the booster?
First and foremost, you must have gotten a primary series of Pfizer-BioNTech shots. Next, you need to fall under one of these demographics:
- 65 years old and older
- 18 through 64 years old and have a high risk of severe COVID-19 due to an underlying medical condition
- 18 through 64 years old "whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2" puts you at high risk of having serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19; in other words, you have a job that puts you at greater risk of being exposed to the coronavirus infection,
What do "severe COVID-19" and "severe illness" mean?
The CDC defines these as someone who is infected with the novel coronavirus, develops COVID-19, and experiences symptoms severe enough that lead to hospitalization, admission to intensive care, placement on a ventilator to help breathing, or even death.
What underlying medical conditions qualify?
The CDC lists several underlying medical conditions, including some chronic illnesses, that can put you at a high risk of developing severe COVID-19. However, the CDC notes that the list doesn't include all medical conditions that could contribute to your risk of severe illness.
"If you have a medical condition, speak with your healthcare provider about steps you can take to manage your health and risks," the CDC states. "Preventive measures for COVID-19 (including vaccination, wearing a mask and social distancing) are important especially if you are older or have multiple or severe health conditions."
Adults of any age who have one or more of these health issues may be more apt to get severely ill. However, you should check with your local public health agency to determine your eligibility under your state's guidelines.
Chronic kidney disease
Chronic lung diseases
- Asthma (moderate to severe)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis
- Having damaged or scarred lung tissue such as interstitial lung disease (including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis)
- Cystic fibrosis, with or without lung or other solid organ transplant
- Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs)
Dementia or other neurological conditions
Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
- Heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
Overweight and obesity
- Pregnant people
- Recently pregnant people (for at least 42 days following end of pregnancy)
Sickle cell disease or thalassemia
Smoking, current or former
Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
Stroke or cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain
Substance use disorders
So what about people who got the Moderna and J&J vaccines? Will we be eligible for a booster?
Probably at some point. The FDA and CDC said they will look at the data soon.
"We will address, with the same sense of urgency, recommendations for the Moderna and J&J vaccines as soon as those data are available," Dr. Rochelle Wallensky, the director of the CDC, said in a statement. "While [Thursday's] action was an initial step related to booster shots, it will not distract from our most important focus of primary vaccination in the United States and around the world."