Speed Reads


Should you get a COVID booster shot as soon as you are eligible?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are expected to open COVID-19 booster shot eligibility this week to all adults who got their Pfizer and Moderna second doses at least six months earlier. (Everyone vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson's vaccine should get a booster after two months, the CDC advises.) Several states and large cities have already cleared all adults to get booster shots. 

If you are under 65, relatively healthy, and don't have other risk factors that have made you eligible to get a booster shot since September, should you schedule your third dose as soon as the FDA and CDC give you the green light? 

The short consensus answer is yes, you should get a booster shot as soon as you are eligible. 

If you are fully vaccinated, "the shot will, well, give you a boost," Caroline Mimbs Nyce writes at The Atlantic. "You're likely already well protected from severe disease, hospitalization, and death thanks to your first course," but "the early science suggests that extra doses help your body produce additional antibodies, perhaps lowering your risk of infection."

The Biden administration and CDC, especially, "still cling to this idea that the first and only goal should be to prevent hospitalizations," Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told Politico's Renuka Rayasam on Wednesday. It's better to avoid getting COVID at all, especially since the sparse evidence suggests breakthrough cases can lead to long COVID, he adds, and "who wants to get that?"

"There is some preliminary evidence that the levels of antibodies after a booster are higher than after a second dose of an mRNA vaccine," Sumathi Reddy writes at The Wall Street Journal. "But higher antibody levels would still wane over time." Timing-wise, you can wait until two to three weeks before a big event, like Christmas or a wedding, to get the third shot, she adds, but "predicting the course of the virus is tough. A more contagious variant could surface and lead to more risk while you're waiting."

Spacing vaccine doses six months apart is the norm, Hotez said, and three doses is the magic number for common childhood vaccines. "I am of the opinion that we won't need another booster next year," or for several years, he told Politico. "But at this point, that is still just an opinion."