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COVID-19: The benefits of boosters

A man wearing a mask and pulling up his sleeve.

Vaccination is a great way to protect yourself from COVID-19. But once you're fully vaccinated, you might be asking: When should I get a booster dose? And do I need one?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has OK'd bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for people 6 months and older.

Most people who are 6 years old or older who haven't received a bivalent booster yet can get one dose of the updated vaccine. That's true whether or not they received the original vaccine series. People who are 65 or older or who have certain health conditions can get a second dose.

Children ages 6 months through 5 years who have already had at least one dose of their primary vaccine series can get a bivalent booster. Ask your child's doctor how many doses they should receive.

Why booster shots are important

Here are some key reasons you should get a booster shot:

You may need the extra protection. The COVID-19 vaccine you may already have received is still working to protect you. But that protection can weaken over time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You may not have as much immunity as you did months ago. An extra dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can boost your immune response to the coronavirus, an FDA analysis showed.

Booster shots are safe. The shots use the same vaccines that millions of Americans have already received, but have been updated to include components of the omicron variant as well as the original strain of COVID-19. Many people have no side effects at all. If they do occur, they typically are mild. Common side effects include a sore arm, fever, headache and fatigue. Swollen lymph nodes may also occur. Serious reactions are rare.

Boosters are free and easy to get. It won't cost you anything to get a COVID-19 booster shot. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how to get one. Or call the local health department. You might even be able to get a walk-in appointment.

Reviewed 4/19/2023

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