What you need to know about COVID-19 booster

  • A patient receives a Pfizer vaccine shot at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination center in a London nightclub.

    A patient receives a Pfizer vaccine shot at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination center in a London nightclub. Associated Press/Aug. 8

Updated 10/1/2021 12:17 PM

Recent shifting federal messages about COVID-19 booster shots have led to some uncertainty about who should get them, and when.

Here's a brief explanation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest guidelines.


Q. Who is eligible for the booster shot?

The CDC is recommending booster shots only for those who received a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has adopted those guidelines, which only cover certain people. The CDC recommendations say anyone 65 and older or living in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot, as well as anyone between ages 50 and 64 with underlying medical conditions.

Anyone 18 to 49 with health problems can seek a booster, but the CDC doesn't state they need to. Adults who work in places where their exposure to the virus might be greater are also in this category.

Q. Why don't the other vaccines require a booster shot?

So far the research only deals with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, though an update on the other vaccines could come within weeks.

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The CDC already is recommending anyone with severely or moderately compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients, transplant recipients and those living with HIV or AIDS, should get a third dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least 28 days after the second shot. Anyone with questions about their qualifications should consult a physician.

A list of other diseases and conditions that would necessitate a third dose is available at the CDC's website, cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Health officials are not recommending a Pfizer/BioNTech booster for those who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Q. Where can I get a booster shot?

Most national pharmacy chains like Walgreens or CVS, along with most grocery chains, have doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The chains recommend you schedule an appointment online. For Walgreens, visit their online portal at walgreens.com. The CVS appointment portal site is at cvs.com.


Anyone needing a booster can also visit the website vaccines.gov or call (800) 232-0244 to find a location supplying booster shots.

Many physicians now carry doses of the vaccine, as well.

Q. Do I have to show proof of my medical condition or employment?

No. There are no requirements, though some locations might ask patients to attest they fall into the category necessitating a booster shot.

Q. Why do I need a booster shot?

Research has shown waning effectiveness of the vaccine in some people who fall into these categories. Many health experts believe the original two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine should have been spaced out more to avoid that loss of effectiveness.

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