Certain recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, as well as anyone over 18 years old who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, may now receive booster vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Oct. 21.

The CDC had previously announced recommendations only for the Pfizer vaccine, but the latest statement includes guidelines for the other two vaccines available in the U.S.

According to CDC guidelines, recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are eligible for a booster if they are at least 65 years old. Those at least 18 years old and a member of one of three at-risk groups — those living in long-term care facilities, those with “underlying medical conditions” and those who face high occupational exposure risk — are also eligible for a booster. 

The type of booster vaccine received does not have to match the type received for the initial series. Not everyone who is eligible may need to receive a booster dose.

Amir St. Clair is the Associate Vice President and Executive Director for COVID-19 Response and Recovery for Emory University. (Emory University)

“We do encourage everyone who believes they may be eligible to consult with their primary health care physician to really understand, one, if they are eligible, and two, if they should receive the booster,” said Associate Vice President and Executive Director of COVID-19 Response and Recovery Amir St. Clair. “Just because you are eligible, doesn’t mean that you are actually recommended to get the vaccine.”

Emory University responded to the new recommendations in an Oct. 27 email to students from St. Clair. Booster vaccines are not currently required for any faculty, staff or students.

Emory Healthcare will not operate a central distribution site, like the Northlake Vaccination Center that was open throughout the spring and summer, to administer boosters.

“The administration and distribution of boosters will look different than the first and second dose series,” St. Clair explained. “It’ll come in different waves and more staggered, and it is not required.”

Students can receive COVID-19 vaccines at Emory University Student Health Services (SHS), whether it is the first or second dose of an initial vaccine series, a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna or a booster dose. 

Third doses supplement the initial series for those who are severely immunocompromised, while booster doses are given after the protection provided by the initial series has faded over time. 

Booster vaccines are available to a wider population than third doses, but students should contact SHS, or the clinic where they plan to receive a vaccine, to determine if they are eligible, said Executive Director of Student Health Services Sharon Rabinovitz.

“If students have any questions, they can send a message in the [patient] portal to the COVID vaccine nurse,” Rabinovitz said. “They can work through the process and understand whether they meet the criteria or not, or if it’s in their best interest or not given the situation.”