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Here's who's eligible for a COVID-19 booster right now

A third or fourth dose could make for a safer summer, doctors say.

WASHINGTON — For a third summer, coronavirus threatens to wreck your plans. Doctors say a third shot – and for some at-risk populations, a fourth shot – could be your answer.

THE QUESTION:

Who is recommended to get a COVID-19 booster right now?

OUR SOURCES

WHAT WE FOUND

“In the beginning, it was ‘everybody needs a vaccine, just everybody gets a vaccine.’ And now it's more nuanced,” said Dr. Glenn Wortmann at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

The CDC recommends that for anyone age 5 or older, now’s a good time to get boosted, if you haven’t yet, and if enough time has passed since finishing your primary vaccine series or testing positive for COVID-19. The CDC outlines these time criteria based on age group, risk factors, and vaccine type on its website.

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The CDC now also recommends a second booster for adults ages 50 or older and anyone age 12 or older who’s moderately or severely immunocompromised.

“We're seeing a lot of community transition right now of COVID. And they need that extra booster right now.”

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That doesn’t mean everyone should be getting additional COVID-19 shots, though. Dr. Wortmann says the CDC tests to see what is truly needed – and for people building their immunity after the initial shots, more vaccine could actually be counterproductive.

“You don't want to keep challenging your immune system with vaccine after vaccine after vaccine. The idea is that you give the vaccine you give your immune system a chance to respond to it. And then you boost it again and it's actually a booster,” he said. “After a while your immune system can kind of become tolerant to it.”

Previous dosage recommendations have rolled out by category – for example, by profession or age. However, Dr. Wortmann doesn’t anticipate younger people or different risk groups will be cleared for a fourth shot soon.

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“Right now the sweet point seems to be definitely three - you need the initial two, plus the first booster. And then for certain patient populations at high risk, you need that second booster,” he said. 

Dr. Wortmann says scientists are still learning more about if, ultimately, boosters will become an annual thing for most people – kind of like flu vaccines.

Just like previous shots, doctors say boosters are intended to protect you from the most severe effects of COVID-19 – so if you get sick, it’s more like a cold than a crippling illness.

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