Excellus shares questions, and answers, COVID vaccine boosters

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Vaccines are a powerful tool against COVID-19, and in some cases, booster shots are being promoted to improve their efficacy. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Mona Chitre, PharmD shares the latest.

Q: Mona, what are COVID-19 booster vaccines, and are they necessary?

Booster shots are additional vaccine doses meant to increase the body’s immune response. As the COVID-19 virus continues to mutate and new variants emerge, booster shots are a way to help ward against these variants.

Q: Is the COVID-19 booster vaccine the same as the first?

As of right now, the booster vaccines are made up of the same components as the original vaccines. However, the companies are testing other formulations of their vaccines that would target specific COVID-19 variants. 

Q: Should everyone get a booster shot?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended Pfizer booster shots for adults over 65, and for those who are at a high risk of exposure to or getting COVID-19. It is recommended that Pfizer booster shots are received at least six months after your second dose. 

Q: What’s the latest on Johnson & Johnson’s second dose?

J&J explains that when a person gets two doses of its vaccine, it boosts efficacy. Per experts, this second shot can be given any time between two months and eight months after your first dose, and the longer you wait, the better. J&J plans to submit all the data available to the FDA for consideration of adding a booster dose or authorizing a two-dose regimen.

Q: We’ve heard that the Pfizer vaccine has received FDA approval. What does that mean?

All available COVID-19 vaccines were authorized by the FDA for emergency use. FDA approval takes more time, and Pfizer’s approval means that the vaccine successfully went through all necessary testing by the FDA to be deemed both safe and effective by their standards and thorough testing. It’s likely that the other vaccines will gain this approval.

Q: What if I received the J&J vaccine first, but now want to switch to Pfizer for my booster shot. Can I switch vaccine brands?

It is recommended that each person stay with the same brand of vaccine they received the first time. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are structured with mRNA, and J&J uses viral vector technology. Since there is not enough data around combining vaccines, it is best to stay consistent with your first (and second if applicable) dose.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online at CDC.gov.

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