Federal health officials cleared the way Friday for all adults 18 and over already vaccinated for COVID-19 to get booster shots to protect against the virus.
The decision is an expansion of a previously announced limited eligibility for the boosters. State officials urged all vaccinated adult residents to contact their health care providers or visit www.vaccines.gov to schedule a booster shot.
While the boosters are believed to be highly potent in preventing infection, no vaccine is 100% effective and vulnerable populations of people, such as the elderly and sick, are most at risk.
Here’s what you need to know:
Who is newly eligible for these shots?
Any individuals 18 or over who completed their first series of Pfizer or Moderna shots at least six months earlier. Officials previously determined those who received a Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine can receive a booster two months later. The vast majority of people vaccinated in the U.S. have received either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The government earlier said those 65 and over or those with health conditions should get booster shots. On Friday, health officials specifically urged those 50 and older to get a booster.
How do I get a booster shot?
The shots can be administered by doctors, hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies and at other dedicated sites. Vaccine boosters can be scheduled the same way first doses were booked; go to suntimes.com/vaccine for more information. City residents can learn more about vaccines at chi.gov/covidvax.
Are the shots free?
Like the initial doses of COVID-19, the shots are available at no cost. In Chicago, the vaccine is available to eligible residents and there are no requirements to show proof of insurance coverage or immigration status.
Do I need to prove that I was previously vaccinated to get a booster?
In Chicago, residents can self report that they got their initial vaccinations and can get a booster anywhere that one is available. However, some doctors may ask to bring your previous vaccination card if possible.
Can I get a different vaccine than I got previously or do I need to stay with the same brand?
Federal health officials determined that people can mix and match their vaccines. Most people received either Pfizer or Moderna for their initial doses and individuals can still choose to stay with a shot from the same vaccine maker.
Am I protected from COVID-19 if I don’t get a booster shot?
Federal health officials say that vaccine protection may weaken over time, especially for seniors and those with health conditions. However, the original doses of vaccines continue to be very effective in preventing deaths or hospitalizations, officials say.
Do I need a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated?
As of now, people are considered fully vaccinated if they received their initial shots regardless of whether they received a booster.
Can I get a flu shot and a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time?
Flu shots and any COVID vaccines can safely be given together.
Do I still need to wear a mask indoors if I receive a booster?
The state of Illinois, the city of Chicago and other municipalities still have a mask mandate in place for indoor settings regardless of vaccination status. A federal requirement mandates that masks must be worn on all public transit and other modes of transportation, including airplanes, taxis and rideshare services.
Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.