Booster Shots

October 18, 2021 update

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended booster shots for people who received the Moderna vaccine and is addressing the need for a second vaccination for those who received the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.

The country is awaiting final recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Until the CDC finalizes their recommendations, the only current booster available at this time is the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for specific populations with greater risk of severe disease or greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.

We will provide updated information as soon as the final CDC recommendations are available.

The authorized COVID-19 vaccines continue to be effective at reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the highly contagious Delta variant.

Data has shown that, over time, vaccines provide less protection against mild and moderate COVID-19 disease in certain populations. People who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout should get a booster dose to continue to have the highest level of protection that the vaccines provide.

On September 24, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided the following recommendations for Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots:

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after completion of their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series.
  • People aged 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after completion of their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series.
  • People aged 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after completion of their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

    Underlying medical conditions

    • Cancer
    • Chronic kidney disease
    • Chronic lung diseases, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma (moderate-to-severe), interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary hypertension
    • Dementia or other neurological conditions
    • Diabetes (type 1 or type 2)
    • Down syndrome
    • Heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, or hypertension)
    • HIV inection
    • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system)
    • Liver disease
    • Overweight and obesity
    • Pregnancy
    • Sickle cell disease and thalassemia
    • Smoking, current or former
    • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
    • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain
    • Substance use disorders
  • People aged 18 to 64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after completion of their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

    Occupational and institutional settings

    • Caregivers for frail or immunocompromised individuals
    • Day care staff
    • Grocery workers
    • Health care workers
    • Homeless shelter staff
    • Prison staff
    • Teachers

The CDC advisory committee continues to review the data for the Moderna and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines. The committee will provide recommendations on the use of boosters for these vaccines after more careful review of all of the evidence.

Getting a booster shot at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (D-HH)

If you fall into one of the categories above, we know that you are eager to get your booster shot. D-HH locations are working quickly to put plans in place to offer the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot to eligible D-HH employees and patients.

As a result of our staffing shortage, our current flu vaccine clinics, and our ongoing COVID-19 vaccine clinics (for patients who have never been vaccinated or who require a third dose due to a weakened immune system), it may take a few weeks for us to expand vaccination appointments to provide COVID-19 booster shots.

We thank you for your patience. We will share more information regarding D-HH patient vaccination schedules as soon as it becomes available.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about booster shots

The following FAQ answers many of the questions you might have about booster shots.


When can I get a COVID-19 vaccine booster?

Booster shots will be available soon through Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities and other community-based locations including pharmacies. On September 24, the CDC provided the following recommendations for Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots:

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after completion of their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series.
  • People aged 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after completion of their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series.
  • People aged 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after completion of their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.
  • People aged 18 to 64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after completion of their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

Will people who received the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine need a booster shot?

It is likely that people who received the J&J COVID-19 vaccine will need a booster dose. More data is expected to come in the next few weeks. At this time, boosters are not available.

Are booster shots available for people who received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine?

Not yet. The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing data for a Moderna booster shot. It will then be reviewed by the CDC panel of scientific advisors.

Can people who received the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine get a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine?

No. There’s not enough data currently to support getting an mRNA vaccine booster dose (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) if someone has gotten a J&J vaccine. People who took the J&J vaccine will likely need a booster dose, and more data is expected in the next few weeks.

If a booster is needed, does that mean that the vaccine is not working?

No. The COVID-19 vaccines are working remarkably well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. However, with the Delta variant, experts are starting to see reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. A booster shot would help to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.

What is the difference between a booster shot and a third or additional dose?

An “additional dose” refers to an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) vaccine that is given to people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised receiving an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine. This additional dose is given because these people may not have received adequate protection from their initial 2-dose vaccine series. For more information, see the Third Dose of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines FAQ.

A “booster dose” is a supplemental vaccine dose given to people when the immune response to a primary vaccine series was adequate but is likely to have decreased over time.