Answers to your questions about Covid booster injections

This week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for some older Americans ...


This week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for some older Americans and those considered to be at high risk of complications from Covid-19. Here are the answers to some of your questions.

The FDA has cleared booster shots for a select group of people who received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago. Eligible individuals include Pfizer beneficiaries who are over 65 or who live in long-term care facilities. The agency has also cleared reminders for adults at high risk for severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical condition.

A scientific committee from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a third dose for people over 50 with underlying medical conditions, but said people 18 to 49 with risky conditions should take decisions based on their individual risk.

People with weakened immune systems who have received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are also eligible for a third injection at least four weeks after their second dose. For these patients, the third injection is not really a booster dose, but is now part of the recommended immunization schedule for people with weakened immune systems who do not generate a robust response after just two injections. About 3 percent of Americans fall into this group for a variety of reasons, including those who have received an organ transplant.

Regulators have not made additional recommendations on booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients, but officials say these could arrive soon. The Moderna vaccine uses technology similar to that of the Pfizer vaccine, and the company has applied for FDA clearance for the booster injections. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given as a single dose and uses a different method to stimulate antibodies against the virus. The company did not submit a recall request to the FDA, but it did report that two doses of its vaccine were 94% effective against mild to severe Covid-19 in the United States, compared to 74% conferred with a one shot.

The CDC has said the risk of complications from Covid-19 is highest for people with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cancer, chronic lung or kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and of certain disabilities. You can find a full list here, although the agency may offer additional advice in the coming days.

The category of immunocompromised people eligible for a third Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (technically not a booster dose) includes people on cancer treatment; those who have had an organ or stem cell transplant and are taking drugs to suppress the immune system; people with primary immunodeficiency or advanced or untreated HIV infection; or people taking high dose corticosteroids or other medicines that suppress the immune response.

Although the FDA has cleared booster doses for healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, and others whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure, the CDC panel did not support the recommendation. A final decision on recommendations regarding occupational risk and eligibility for recalls is expected to come from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. Stay tuned.

Dr Walensky is expected to approve the recommendations of the agency’s scientific advisers this week, and people who meet the criteria could start getting vaccinated immediately afterwards. Health departments, pharmacies and doctors’ offices will distribute the reminders in the same way they gave the first and second doses. Call ahead for times and bring your vaccination card. Proof of an underlying medical condition will not be required, but you may want to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.

You can find more information about booster shots in the coming days on your state’s health department website or on pharmacy websites. People who are immunocompromised can also discuss the best way to get a third injection with their doctor. Since the FDA fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a two-dose regimen last month, doctors have had a great deal of latitude in prescribing a third dose to people they deemed necessary.

While severely immunocompromised people may receive a third injection earlier, all other eligible people should wait at least six months after their second injection. In addition to a lack of safety data, receiving a booster too early is probably a waste of dose and may not increase your antibodies significantly.

While the Biden administration has said it supports booster shots for anyone who is eight months after vaccination, the plan has been rejected by FDA scientists. But the recommendation could change in the coming weeks or months as more data becomes available on the durability of vaccine antibodies over time. The good news is that the consensus within the scientific community is that all vaccines continue to offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19.

Although data are limited, so far the reactions reported after the third dose of Pfizer or Moderna mRNA were similar to those in the two-dose series: fatigue and pain at the injection site were the most common. most commonly reported side effects and overall most symptoms were mild to moderate, CDC said. An investigation in Israel, where booster shots are already given, found that 88% of Pfizer vaccinees said that within days of the third dose, they felt “similar or better” to what they felt after the second injection. About a third of respondents reported some side effects, the most common being pain at the injection site. About 0.4% reported having difficulty breathing and 1% reported seeing a doctor because of one or more side effects.

It is not recommended. At this time, recipients of the Pfizer vaccine are advised to receive a Pfizer booster, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients must wait until booster doses are approved for their manufacturer’s vaccine.

Some people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine seek a Pfizer booster on their own. San Francisco health officials said that they will meet these requests as long as people see their doctor first.

Read more:
CDC panel recommends booster shots for many Americans


This week, I answered a reader question about the protection offered by a mask when no one around you is wearing one. I was surprised to learn how a simple method of folding, knotting and folding can improve the effectiveness of a surgical mask. A CDC study found that a standard surgical mask protected the wearer from just about 7.5% of the particles generated by a simulated cough. But tying the buckles and tucking in the sides of the medical mask reduced exposure by almost 65%. Covering the surgical mask with a cloth mask, a technique known as double masking, reduced exposure to simulated cough particles by 83%.

Watch the video to see the “knot and fold” method:
How to line the mask correctly


If you’re having trouble sleeping, try these four simple exercises to soothe your body, calm your mind, and hopefully fall asleep. We have illustrated each exercise, which includes the “cat / cow” yoga poses and the child pose, as well as two exercises called “threading the needle” and a low lunge.

Move to sleep:
Four light exercises to help you sleep


Here are some must-see stories:

Let’s continue the conversation. Follow me on Facebook Where Twitter for daily recordings, or email me at well_newsletter@nytimes.com.

Stay well!



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Newsrust - US Top News: Answers to your questions about Covid booster injections
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