Vaccine Boosters

I heard there are now booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine. Is that true?

Yes, that’s true. The FDA recently authorized the administration of a third booster shot of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 18+ years old. To provide better protection against COVID-19 and its variants, the CDC recommends that vulnerable individuals get this booster as soon as they can.

What is a booster shot?

A booster shot is an additional dose of a vaccine. In this case, it’s a third dose of thePfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Boosters are given when the initial protection of a vaccine series begins to weaken.

Should my booster be from the same manufacturer as my original vaccine series?

You may choose which COVID-19 vaccine you receive as a booster shot. Some people may prefer the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots everyone 18+ eligible.

How long should I wait to receive my booster after my second dose?

For Pfizer & Moderna – At least 6 months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series. For Johnson & Johnson 2 months after completing your primary COVID-19 vaccination series.

Should children over 12 who are immunocompromised get the booster?

Yes, they should be eligible to receive the booster. Discuss with the child’s care team before scheduling.

Receiving the vaccine

How do I get a vaccine?

You can get your COVID-19 vaccine free of charge at a convenient location — like a local pharmacy. Use Vaccines.gov to find a location near you, then call or visit their website to make an appointment. Getting your vaccine is quick, easy, and most importantly, effective. Visit Vaccines.gov to schedule your appointment today.

How much will a COVID-19 vaccine cost?

Highmark members will receive the vaccine free of charge — however, some administrative fees may apply.

Why should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

This pandemic has affected millions of Americans and vaccinating is the safest, most effective way to build protection against Coronavirus. Together, we can develop “herd immunity,” meaning roughly 70% of the population can fend off the disease. Ultimately, this will slow the spread.

If we all do our part and receive a vaccine when it’s available to us, we can work together to eradicate Coronavirus. Learn more about vaccine safety from the CDC.

What if I’m young and healthy? Do I need the vaccine?

Yes. While your risk of serious illness decreases at a younger age, you could still carry Coronavirus and risk infecting other individuals. For example, you may carry the virus, experience no symptoms, but pass it along to immune-compromised friends or family. Don’t put others health at risk. Together, we can eradicate Coronavirus.

Does getting the vaccine really help my community?

It certainly does. When you get vaccinated, you help your friends, family, and community stay safe. Because of various diseases or severe allergies, some people can’t get vaccinated. When you receive a COVID-19 vaccine, you’re doing your part to keep our society safe and healthy.

If I have Coronavirus antibodies, do I need the vaccine?

Yes, you should still receive the vaccine. Many antibody tests are not specific enough to guarantee that you actually had Coronavirus.

I got my annual flu shot. Do I need the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, you do. While the flu shot is a great way to protect yourself from the seasonal flu, it will not protect against Coronavirus.

Is the Vaccine Safe?

Once I’m eligible, should I get the vaccine? Is it safe?

It is highly recommended that you receive the vaccine when you can. Like other medicines and vaccines you receive, the COVID-19 vaccines currently available through the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization have gone through extensive testing to demonstrate they work as intended and are safe.  The vaccines currently authorized by the FDA have shown to be highly effective in preventing coronavirus infection, and can help protect you and your community.

What does emergency use authorization mean?

The FDA gave the COVID-19 vaccine what’s called Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). With millions of Coronavirus cases in the United States alone, EUA was granted to distribute the vaccine as quickly as possible.

EUA does not mean that safety was compromised or that the vaccine somehow skipped deep analysis and testing. It simply means that this vaccine was prioritized above all others and that multiple steps worked in parallel together. It was a collaborative, all-in effort by the FDA  to address this public health crisis and keep our communities safe.

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?

Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines. This type of vaccine involves injecting an inactivate strand of a virus into our bodies. This strand provides our bodies with Coronavirus “RNA instructions,” which ultimately trigger an immune response and allow our bodies to fight off the virus.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is an adenovirus vector vaccine. This vaccine does not expose you to the Coronavirus. Instead, it shows your immune system a weakened, common cold virus “disguised” as the Coronavirus. The immune system then uses these replicas to recognize — and fight off — the real thing.

What are the side effects of receiving the vaccine? Can I become infected with Coronavirus?

Like many other vaccines, trial participants noted mild to moderate symptoms — like soreness at the injection site or feeling slightly lethargic. The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the virus. You cannot become infected with Coronavirus as a result of receiving the vaccine.

I’m pregnant, should I get the vaccine?

We recommend you discuss your options with your OB-GYN.

I have children, should they get vaccinated?

As of May 10, 2021, the FDA has amended the emergency use authorization for Pfizer- BioNTech and Moderna to include kids 5+ years old. In line with the latest news from the CDC, The FDA strongly recommends that families get their eligible children the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccination at their first opportunity. Johnson & Johnson are still only authorized for 18 and older. The vaccine is not yet approved for infants and young children.

About the COVID-19 Vaccine

How effective is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 72% effective against moderate to severe infection in the U.S, and 85% effective against serious symptoms.  All three vaccines are reported to be equally effective at preventing hospitalization and death related to COVID-19.

How effective are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are over 90% effective. For reference, the FDA set a bar that the vaccine must be at least 50% effective to be considered for authorization. Both versions are far surpassing that. For further perspective, annual flu vaccines are 40-60% effective, whereas the two doses of the measles vaccine are 97% effective.

Getting Vaccinated

How long do I have to wait between COVID-19 vaccine doses?

The second dose should be scheduled 21 days after the first shot for the Pfizer vaccine, and 28 days after for Moderna. You should try to get your second shot as close to the recommended three-week or one-month interval as possible — it’s most likely you scheduled it at the end of your first appointment.

How long does it take for the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to be effective?

Moderna reported that full protection starts at 14 days after the second dose, while Pfizer reports seven days after the second dose. After your second dose, you should still continue to wear a mask, socially distance, and wash your hands.

Does the vaccine protect against other COVID-19 strains and variations?

While studies suggest that current vaccinations will protect against new strains, the CDC has not confirmed for sure yet. Check the CDC website for updates on COVID-19 strains.

What should I bring with me to my appointment?
  • Photo ID – Bring a photo ID so they can verify your name for the vaccination system.
  • Face Mask – You’ll need to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.
  • Insurance Card – Bring your health insurance card with you.
  • Original Medicare Card – Some providers require Medicare members to bring their original (red, white, and blue) Medicare card.