Ask a Pediatrician: Does My Child Need a COVID-19 Booster Shot?

This post was last updated November 22, 2021.

You ask, we answer. In each edition of “Ask a Pediatrician,” Connecticut Children’s pediatric experts respond to a question from our community.

The CDC and FDA authorized booster shots of all three COVID-19 vaccines for people over the age of 18, and said it’s safe and effective to mix and match different vaccines. So we’re hearing a lot of questions about young people and COVID-19 boosters.

Connecticut Children’s Physician-in-Chief Juan C. Salazar, MD, MPH, FAAP, shares answers.

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Is my child eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot?

Dr. Salazar: Right now, your child can only get a COVID-19 booster if they’re at least 18 years old. It also depends on when they got their shot.

If your child originally got Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine:

  • Age 18 or older
  • Received their shot at least two months ago

If your child originally got Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccine:

  • Age 18 or older
  • Received their shot at least six months ago

> Related: The COVID-19 Vaccine and Younger Kids: FAQs for Ages 5 to 11

If my child is 18 years old and eligible, should they get a COVID-19 booster shot?

A booster shot is especially important for people with underlying medical conditions, or who live or work in a risky setting (like healthcare). If that’s your child, I recommend they get a booster as soon as possible.

If your child doesn’t have these risk factors, they should still consider a booster. Their original vaccine continues to protect them against severe illness and death, but it’s wearing off a bit over time. They may want extra protection as COVID-19 cases rise in the U.S. and other countries, and your family weighs how to safely gather for the winter holidays.

If your child isn’t sure, encourage them to talk with their doctor. They know their health history, and can give personalized advice.

Teenager receives COVID-19 vaccine from nurse at Connecticut Children's

Are booster shots any different from the original vaccines?

The Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson boosters are the same as their original shots. The Moderna booster is half of the original dosage: The booster shot is just 50 micrograms, compared to 100 micrograms each for the first and second shots.

Is it safe for my child to get a booster of a different COVID-19 vaccine than their original doses?

Yes, the FDA and CDC now say that this is safe and effective. (In some cases, it may be even more effective – researchers are still studying this.) This “mix and match” approach is approved across all three vaccine companies: Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

How should my child decide whether to stick with the same COVID-19 vaccine they originally got, or switch to a different shot?

All of the vaccines are safe, and boost your child’s protection against COVID-19. That’s true whether they get their original vaccine and booster from the same vaccine company, or mix and match.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. Your child should talk with their doctor for help deciding. They may like the familiarity of knowing how their body responded to the original COVID-19 vaccine, and want to stay with that. Or maybe they’d like to try a different vaccine, because it’s more convenient. Their doctor can weigh in with any concerns or recommendations.

> Related: Can Kids Get the COVID-19 Vaccine and Flu Shot at the Same Time?

Will kids who are under the age of 18 need COVID-19 boosters too?

Researchers are still studying whether COVID-19 immunity wears off in kids over time, like it has in adults. That information will help decide the right approach to boosters for younger kids. Stay tuned.

In the future, will my family need regular COVID-19 boosters, like the annual flu shot?

It’s possible. It depends on a lot of factors – like how the COVID-19 virus continues to evolve, how the world continues to respond, and how well the vaccines continue to work. We may eventually see different booster shots for different strains of COVID-19, or a booster shot that works against multiple strains, similar to how the flu vaccine is created each year.

Researchers are still working to figure all of this out. Now that more people are getting COVID-19 boosters, they’ll be able to study this question in detail.

What other topics would you like us to address in our “Ask a Pediatrician” series? Let us know at askapediatrician@connecticutchildrens.org.

 

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