COVID-19 Booster Shots Recommended for Everyone Ages 5 and Older; People Age 50 and Older Should Get a Second Booster Shot

MSK healthcare worker administering a COVID-19 shot to a patient

You should bring your CDC-issued COVID-19 vaccination card(s) to your booster dose appointment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all eligible people get a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. A person’s immune protection from the vaccine tends to weaken over time, and a booster dose can help train the immune system to continue recognizing the virus to protect the body against it.

Currently, everyone age 5 and older is eligible for a booster shot after the recommended amount of time has passed since their primary vaccine series. People age 50 and older, as well as some people who are immunocompromised, should get a second booster shot.

Similar to the way a booster dose of the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine is recommended every 10 years, a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can provide greater protection against severe illness from the disease.

Mini Kamboj, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Chief Medical Epidemiologist, has answers to your questions about who is eligible and how you can schedule an appointment.

This information is about COVID-19 booster shots for everyone age 5 and older. People who are 50 and older should receive a second booster dose.

You also should get a second booster dose if you are currently being treated for cancer or have recently been treated for cancer. The timing for your vaccine doses and total number of vaccine doses may be different. Learn about how many doses you should receive and when »

Who Is Eligible for Booster Doses

  • Everyone age 5 to 49 is eligible to get 1 booster dose.
  • Everyone age 50 and older should receive a second booster dose. That’s because your immune system tends to get weaker as you get older. A second booster dose helps to retrain your immune system to protect against COVID-19.
  • People age 12 and older who are immunocompromised because of a medical condition (such as cancer) should receive a second booster. Learn more about getting a booster dose if you have or have had cancer »
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Should I Get a Second Booster?

Yes. If you meet the criteria for a second booster shot, you should get it. Boosters can help prevent severe disease and hospitalization.

If you are eligible but were recently infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, you may choose to wait a short while (about 90 days) before getting your second booster. Booster shots enhance protection against re-infection and are highly encouraged.

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What Brand of Booster Dose to Get

The CDC endorses the mix-and-match approach to booster doses for people age 18 years and older. You don’t have to get the same brand as you got for your primary vaccination or your first booster dose. Children and adolescents age 5 through 17 are only authorized to receive the Pfizer vaccine as a primary series and a booster.

The CDC recommends that most people get the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty®) vaccine or Moderna (Spikevax™) vaccine for their booster shot(s). The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine can be used as a booster in some situations, after talking with your doctor.

Learn more about the safety of the J&J vaccine »

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Timing: When You Should Get Your Booster Dose(s)

The schedule of when to get your booster dose(s) varies slightly, depending on your age and the brand of vaccine you initially received.

Pfizer-BioNTech as Your First Vaccine

Anyone age 5 and older can get the Pfizer vaccine. If you got the Pfizer vaccine as your first shot, you should follow this schedule:

1st dose

2nd dose — This must be a Pfizer shot.

  • People age 5 through 11 should get this shot 3 weeks (21 days) after their first dose.
  • People age 12 through 64 should get this shot 3 to 8 weeks after their first dose. Young men age 12 to 39 should wait the full 8 weeks to reduce their risk of a side effect called myocarditis. This heart problem is very rare overall but is more common in young men than other groups.
  • People age 65 and older should get this shot 3 weeks (21 days) after their first dose.

3rd dose — This is called a “booster dose,” and it should be given at least 5 months after your 2nd dose.

  • Children age 5 to 17 can only get a Pfizer shot.
  • Anyone age 18 and older can get any brand of vaccine for this dose, but Pfizer or Moderna are strongly recommended.

4th dose — This is also a booster dose, and it should be given at least 4 months after your third dose (your first booster dose). This must be a Pfizer or Moderna shot.

  • People age 50 and older are eligible for this dose.
  • People who are immunocompromised are eligible for this dose.

If you have cancer now or have had cancer, you may need 1 more COVID-19 vaccine dose — meaning 5 total doses — than the general public. Read more here »

Moderna as Your First Vaccine

Anyone age 18 and older can get the Moderna vaccine. People who got the Moderna vaccine as their first shot should follow this schedule:

1st dose

2nd dose — This must be a Moderna shot.

  • People age 18 through 64 should get this shot 4 to 8 weeks after their first dose. Young men up to age 39 should wait the full 8 weeks to reduce their risk of a side effect called myocarditis. This heart problem is very rare overall but is more common in young men than other groups.
  • People age 65 and older should get this shot 4 weeks (28 days) after their first dose.

3rd dose — This is called a “booster dose,” and it should be given at least 5 months after your second dose. Pfizer or Moderna are strongly recommended for most people for this dose.

4th dose — This is also a booster dose, and it should be given at least 4 months after your third dose (your first booster dose). This must be a Pfizer or Moderna shot.

  • People age 50 and older are eligible for this dose.
  • People who are immunocompromised are eligible for this dose.

If you have cancer now or have had cancer, you may need 1 more COVID-19 vaccine dose — meaning 5 total doses — than the general public. Read more here »

Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) as Your First Vaccine

Anyone age 18 and older can get the J&J vaccine. People who got the J&J vaccine as their first shot should follow this schedule:

1st dose

2nd dose — This is called a “booster dose,” and it should be given at least 2 months after your first dose. Pfizer or Moderna are strongly recommended for most people for this dose.

3rd dose — This is also a booster dose, and it should be given at least 4 months after your second dose (your first booster dose). This must be a Pfizer or Moderna shot.

  • There are 3 groups who are eligible for this dose:
    • People age 50 and older
    • People who are immunocompromised
    • People age 18 to 49 who received the J&J vaccine their first vaccine and the J&J vaccine as their booster dose

If you have cancer now or have had cancer, you may need 1 more COVID-19 vaccine dose — meaning 4 total doses — than the general public. Read more here »

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Booster Dose Side Effects

The side effects from any COVID-19 vaccine booster dose are similar to those experienced after receiving the initial vaccine(s). You could experience soreness at the injection site, fatigue, headache, body aches, and fever. These symptoms don’t last long — about 1 to 3 days.

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Where to Get a Booster Shot

To check your eligibility and to schedule a booster vaccination at MSK, please use this link. If you have questions about the booster shot, please call your MSK doctor’s office.

Please bring your CDC-issued COVID-19 vaccination card(s) to your appointment. This is important for us to confirm the date and brand of your doses. We will update your vaccination card with your booster dose information.

However, our patients don’t need to wait to get a booster shot at MSK. We encourage them to look for a vaccination location with availability near you, using the following links:


May 26, 2022


Additional Resources

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