Who’s eligible for a COVID booster, how many are recommended, and when?
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - With COVID cases on the rise again for the last few weeks in the state, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) continues to encourage everyone five and older to get vaccinated.
But for those who have already received the vaccine, there can be some confusion about boosters, like how many shots people are now advised to get and when.
DHEC Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said that is understandable, with recommendations shifting as the medical community learns more about COVID-19.
“As time has shown us, this really does look like this is a medical condition, that COVID-19 is an infection that needs a three-dose regimen of vaccine,” Kelly said. “You know, that’s not unusual when you think about boosters and vaccines or three doses of vaccines — that’s the standard for a lot of different vaccines. Think about all those pediatric immunizations.”
Per the most recent booster recommendations from the CDC, anyone who has been fully vaccinated is eligible to receive the first booster at least five months after completing their initial series, meaning after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or their first dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
As of last month, that includes children as young as five.
When it comes to a second booster, all fully vaccinated adults who are 50 and older are advised to get that shot, and so too is everyone 12 and older who is moderate to severely immunocompromised, such as patients undergoing cancer treatment or people who have received organ transplants.
“Many of them got a third dose back in August of 2021, and that was important because the vaccine doesn’t take as well for them,” Kelly said. “It’s not the vaccine or somebody’s fault. It’s that their immune system isn’t that strong, so they need that extra dose. Immunocompromised people who got that third dose — now they need a fourth dose.”
People in both the 50-and-older group and those who are immunocompromised are recommended to receive a second booster at least four months after their first.
For people younger than 50 who are not immunocompromised, Dr. Kelly said there is no clear recommendation at this point for an additional booster because there is no clear evidence they need a second one right now.
“That might change in the future,” she said. “Every step of the way, we are learning as time goes by, so that recommendation might change in the future if we have a new variant evolve.”
DHEC is still advising everyone age five and older to get vaccinated in the first place.
Dr. Kelly said she is especially concerned about children in the five-to-11-year-old age group, as fewer than one of five of them in South Carolina have been fully vaccinated at this point.
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