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What's a COVID booster vaccine?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

A COVID-19 booster is an additional dose of vaccine that is given some time after people have received their first two vaccinations. Scientists determine the best time to give it, calculated for when your level of protection starts to wane. It then provides your immunity with the boost it needs to keep you maximally protected.

Is the booster different to an additional, or third, vaccine?

Simply put, a COVID-19 booster is given at the end of a vaccination course completion and when immunity begins to reduce. There are 4 booster products available in the US. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which product you should receive.

For those who are identified as immunocompromised, through medication or condition, they will be offered a third dose of the original vaccine, and later a booster. They need this to achieve the same level of immunity and protection as everyone else.

Why do I need a booster?

While initial variants of COVID-19 responded well to the two shots that make up "full vaccination," it was felt that immunity started to drop with time, and a booster gives the immune system that push back into high protection.

As the new variant, Omicron, came along, a booster plus the initial two shots were shown to be much more effective against catching it or getting seriously ill from it, than just the two shots alone. This has proved important as Omicron has become the dominant strain, and as it's much more contagious than previous variants.

Am I eligible for a booster vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone stay up-to-date on their boosters. Your doctor or pharmacist will advise on the timing of your booster shot.

Children aged 6 months and older are eligible for a booster if they have completed their first two vaccinations.

Which booster will I get?

Your doctor or pharmacist will advise on which product you should receive based on your previous doses.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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