While Omicron has pretty much taken over as the dominant strain of the COVID-19 virus, it’s managed to do that in a really short period of time, which is why there is a lot we still don’t know about it!
In fact, there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding the Centers for Disease Control guidelines as well, especially when it comes to the available vaccines and the booster dose.
Most people started getting vaccinated almost a year ago at this point which is why the CDC has been recommending the booster shot in the aftermath of the Omicron emergence as a way of bringing protection levels back up.
After all, it is a well known fact that the vaccines’ protection slowly wanes over time and that is definitely not good when facing Omicron in particular since it’s so highly contagious.
With that being said, the CDC is currently recommending that everyone who got vaccinated with the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna in the last 5 months or more to get the booster shot.
Furthermore, those who received the single shot of Johnson & Johnson in the past two months, should do the same.
A family medicine physician from Austin Regional Clinic in Austin, Texas, Sunaina Suhag, M.D., shares that “Vaccines are working incredibly well to protect from serious disease; the proof is in the hospital data. By and large, most people needing to go to a hospital with some serious symptoms due to Covid-19 are unvaccinated. That means that vaccines are doing what we need them to do — keep people out of the hospital.”
Unfortunately, the CDC’s recommendation quickly got overlooked because of the chaos that took place along with the scary rise in hospitalizations all over the country caused by the latest COVID variant.
As a result, if you still have some questions about the booster such as if you can mix and match vaccine manufacturers, if you are even eligible for it or if you need to be worried about any unusual and serious side effects, read on!
But first of all, you might want to know what exactly a booster shot even is!
As you may or may not have heard, it is an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine meant to help you maintain a proper level of immunity against the virus.
Of course, you are supposed to receive it months after getting the initial dose or doses when the protection from the first vaccine or vaccines weakens and it is supposed to reset your immune response, giving you the most protection possible.
Dr. Suhag explains that “The rationale for a booster is that there is some evidence that vaccine effectiveness begins to wear off. A booster helps maintain immunity in order to fight off serious symptoms. Studies have pointed to waning immunity around 5 to 6 months after a complete vaccines series, and this data has been evaluated by the FDA when they recommended boosters for all adults and, recently, also for children over 12 years old.”
As for the formula, it is the same as the initial vaccines, the only difference being in quantity in the case of Moderna where people only receive half the dose they received in the initial series of vaccination.
With that being said, if you are currently unvaccinated or have only received the first Pfizer or Moderna dose, make sure to do that first and then wait the recommended time before getting the booster shot as well.
Furthermore, according to the CDC, if you are at least 18 years old, you can get the booster from any of the three main vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson, regardless of where you got your initial doses from so don’t be afraid of mixing and matching.
In the case of teens aged 12 to 17, if you have received your initial doses from Pfizer, you can only get the booster from the same manufacturer.
Dr. Suhag mentions that side effects are pretty much the same ones you might have experienced when you first got the vaccine.
Of course, what this means is that you are likely to either experience no side effects at all or any number of the following:
– Injection site pain
– Muscle pain
As a result of this risk, Dr. Suhag says that: “I recommend to plan your day (and the next one) with the assumption that you will not feel 100% for at least 24 hours.”
But why do some people experience side effects while others do not?
If you felt really terrible after getting vaccinated while someone else you know was perfectly fine, you might be wondering why that is!
Unfortunately, that’s just how immune systems work but the good news is that it means nothing aside from the discomfort.
Namely, it has nothing to do with whether one is more or less protected from a breakthrough infection by the vaccine.
To make it clear, Dr. Suhag explains that “Some people experience side effects and others may not – this is because each of our immune systems is unique. Our symptomatic response to a vaccine can be affected by our age, our sex, or medical history. Rest assured that your body will build up the desired immunity whether you experience body aches after your vaccine or not.”
All in all, just like with the initial vaccine, there is a chance you might not feel in top shape in the first 24 hours after receiving a dose of the booster.
However, it’s all a really small price to pay if the alternative is getting infected with a severe case of COVID and ending up in an already crowded and overwhelmed hospital.