Calling the shots: boosters or not?

Clio Koh, News Editor

As 16 and 17 year olds are now eligible for their third dose of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, also known as a booster shot, Oregon healthcare providers and vaccine clinics prepare to administer shots to teens who received their second dose at least six months ago. Currently the only type of booster vaccine approved for 16 and 17 year olds is the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. For those who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines for their first and second doses, the CDC recommends “mix and matching” different vaccine types for the booster.

For eighteen year olds and above, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all approved for booster shots. However the time required between second and third doses varies based on which vaccine was taken prior. For Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, a six month period is required, while for Johnson & Johnson, at least two months are required. 

Laboratory studies performed by BioNTech and Pfizer find that people who received the third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine possess significantly more neutralizing antibodies that work against the new variant, Omicron, compared to people who only received two doses.

The third dose of COVID-19 vaccines, commonly called a booster shot, contains the same formula as the previous doses, serving mainly to bolster protection as it weakens over time. As studies had shown the COVID vaccine’s protection fades over time, so getting an immunity renewing booster shot can be beneficial as variants emerge.

For Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson booster vaccines, the dosage of the third vaccine is the same as previous doses, while booster vaccines, the third vaccine dosage is half of the previous two doses, a change made by Moderna after their studies found a smaller dosage still generates the same immune response.

Pfizer and BioTech are in progress to develop a vaccine specific for the Omicron variant, expected to be released by March next year.