September 21, 2022

Do I need the new COVID-19 booster?

A physician answers some of the common questions about the current state of the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccination.

Even if you have received your original booster, the CDC recommends you get an updated booster, if eligible.

While the COVID-19 primary vaccines and the original boosters have been effective at preventing people from getting severely sick, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that people age 12 years and older get an updated COVID-19 booster for better protection against the most prevalent omicron variants. The variants currently causing the most cases in the U.S. are predicted to continue to circulate this fall and winter.

“The updated COVID-19 boosters have been designed to better protect against the newer variants,” said Craig Robbins, MD, physician co-lead for Kaiser Permanente’s national COVID-19 vaccination program. “The newer versions of the booster strengthen the protection that has decreased since previous vaccination.”

The CDC advises people to stay up to date by receiving all recommended COVID-19 primary vaccines (which are now available for anyone 6 months or older) and boosters when eligible. Kaiser Permanente members should check kp.org for availability of vaccination appointments for the updated boosters. COVID-19 vaccination locations can also be found at vaccines.gov.

Dr. Robbins answers questions below about the updated boosters and how to stay safe. For answers to additional questions about the updated boosters, please visit kp.org/covidvaccine.

Who can get a booster, and when should they get it?

The CDC recommends people age 12 years and older get an updated COVID-19 booster. Children from 5 to 11 are eligible to receive the original booster.

Age When are you eligible? Which booster?

Anyone 5 to 11 who was vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine as an initial 2-dose series

5 months after initial 2-dose series

Only the original Pfizer booster

Anyone 6 to 11 who was vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine as an initial 2-dose series

Not applicable

No booster recommended at this time

Anyone 12 to 17

2 months after initial 2-dose series or most recent booster

Only the updated Pfizer booster

Anyone 18 or older who was vaccinated with Moderna, Pfizer, or Novavax for initial series

2 months after initial 2-dose series or most recent booster

Updated Pfizer or updated Moderna booster

Anyone 18 or older who was vaccinated with J&J* for initial vaccination

2 months after first dose or most recent booster

Updated Pfizer or updated Moderna booster

*People 18 or older should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and that this risk has not been seen with the 2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) or the Novavax vaccine. For more information, visit the CDC vaccine page.

For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccines and how to find an appointment in your area, visit kp.org/covidvaccine.

Why are these updated booster shots necessary if the vaccines are effective?

The COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death. However, public health experts are seeing reduced protection over time against mild and moderate disease. The updated COVID-19 boosters provide protection against the more-recently circulating COVID-19 variants.

I’m vaccinated and have received an updated booster. Should I still be worried about variants?

Even if you get an updated booster shot, we strongly encourage you to take steps to protect yourself and your community. The CDC recommends continued mask use in public indoor spaces in communities where the COVID-19 community level is high. Also, you should still wear a mask if you wish to be cautious, if you are personally at high risk, or when you are with people who are at higher risk for severe illness. And regardless of local conditions, you should wear a mask if you have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Can I spread the coronavirus if I’ve received a primary vaccine series and been boosted (meaning I am “up to date”)?

While people who have received a primary vaccine series and been boosted (meaning they are considered “up to date”) are less likely to transmit the coronavirus to other people, it is still possible to spread the virus. Please get tested if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even after your COVID-19 vaccinations are “up to date”. Taking a home antigen test is the quickest and easiest way to find out if you have COVID-19 and might infect others.

How can I help protect people who are not vaccinated or boosted?

Protecting yourself also protects the community and the people around you, especially those at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. When you take precautions such as getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing a mask when appropriate, and testing if you have symptoms, it also protects people who can’t get vaccinated, including people with weakened immune systems from things like chemotherapy for cancer.

You can also encourage friends and family members who are 6 months and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible and boosted as soon as they are eligible. They can get a no-cost COVID-19 vaccination or booster at Kaiser Permanente or any authorized vaccination provider. Both members and nonmembers can go to kp.org/covidvaccine or call our KP COVID Vaccine InfoLine at 1-855-550-0951, available 24/7, for the latest information and to make an appointment.