Open Accessibility Menu

Clearing Up Confusion on COVID Boosters

Clearing Up Confusion on COVID Boosters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its recommendations for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to expand the use of a single booster dose to 12- to 15-year-olds. The Food and Drug Administration amended its emergency use authorization earlier this week.

"Everyone at age 12 and up is approved for a booster after they've completed their initial series," says Dr. Melanie Swift, co-chair of Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation and Distribution Work Group.

Young man sits with his father behind him while getting a shot from a nurse

What constitutes an initial series depends on the COVID-19 vaccine you were given. If it was Johnson & Johnson, it's one shot. If it was an mRNA vaccine, which is Moderna or Pfizer, an initial series is two shots. And if you are immunocompromised and were vaccinated with Moderna or Pfizer, it's three shots.

"To keep it clear, just remember that it's your initial series, however many doses that is, and one booster for now," says Dr. Swift. "At least that is in the United States right now. And that's, with everything COVID, always subject to change."

"The timing of the booster depends upon the brand of your initial series. If you got Johnson & Johnson, it's two months. If you got Pfizer initially, it's five months. If you got Moderna initially, it's six months. Now that might change in the future. But that's the current guidance based upon the available data," she says.

Family of 4 sits in their living room smiling showing bandaids on their upper arm

This comes at a time when the omicron variant is spreading rapidly across the nation. The U.S. recently hit a new pandemic high of over 300,000 average new daily cases of COVID-19. And COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise, as well.

"We know that one of the things about omicron is that it makes your vaccines less effective. The vaccination protection with two doses of an mRNA vaccine against omicron is down in the 40-something percent range — so not great. But with a booster, that protection goes up over 75%," says Dr. Swift. "We know that in addition to the fact that your immunity just wanes over time, omicron, in particular, is more susceptible to your immune response after the third or booster dose. So, we are really encouraging people to get that booster dose."

As a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Altru Health System has access to Mayo Clinic knowledge, resources and expertise. This includes collaborating with Mayo Clinic specialists on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.

For more information on COVID-19, please visit