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Triple protection

The difference between a booster shot and a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Article Author: Wesley Roberts

Article Date:

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We now have direction when it comes to extra COVID-19 protection: the long-anticipated booster shot.

In August 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended certain people with weakened immune systems receive a third dose of an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) at least 28 days after their second dose to bolster their defense against the virus.

Now, a booster dose of Pfizer is approved for certain individuals six months after completion of the primary series, including those who are:

  • 65 and older
  • 18 to 64 and at high risk of severe COVID-19
  • 18 to 64 whose institutional or occupational exposure to COVID-19 puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19

A booster for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines has not been officially recommended at this time.

Twisted terminology

While the words “booster” and “third dose” have often been used interchangeably, there’s actually a difference in the purpose.

Third dose refers to the shot received by those with weakened immune systems. It gives immunocompromised individuals another opportunity to build protection against the virus, since they may not have built the strongest immune response after only two doses.

A booster shot is for everyone else. It helps “boost” protection when the efficacy of the first two vaccines begins to diminish.

“Both Pfizer and Moderna are highly efficacious at 6 months, but additional research has shown that efficacy does begin to wane around 8 months, especially given the presence of the delta variant,” explained Shalika Katugaha, MD, system medical director of Infectious Diseases at Baptist Health. “That’s why U.S. health officials are now recommending a booster shot for older and high-risk Americans.”

From good to great

You are considered fully vaccinated even if you haven't received a COVID-19 booster shot. The first two doses of the vaccine are still working; the boosters are just to help us get ahead in the fight against COVID-19.

“The third dose is a reflection of health officials putting people in the best position to protect themselves from transmissible variants,” said Dr. Katugaha. “Getting the third shot is a shift from good protection to better protection.”


At Baptist Health, we want to help keep our community informed about COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, visit baptistjax.com/covid19vaccine. Click here to find a vaccination location near you.

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