You might be eligible for a 3rd dose or booster now

People use the terms interchangeably, but booster shots and third doses are different. Many people are eligible now for a booster.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The third time’s a charm. According to new data from the CDC and local leaders in infectious disease prevention, many of you should be getting your third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or a booster. 

THE QUESTION

Aren’t third doses and booster shots the same thing? Who can get one?

THE SOURCES

  • Centers for Disease Control
  • Dr. Shalika Katugaha, Baptist Health’s Infectious Disease Specialist  

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, booster shots and third doses are not the same. They are different because of the timeline they are administered, who needs them and the ability to mix and match. Many people are eligible now for booster, while only a small group of people are eligible for a third dose. 

WHAT WE FOUND

“There is a difference,” Dr. Katugaha explains. “The third or additional dose is what we give after the first two doses of the MRNA vaccine.”

The third dose is administered a month after the second dose of an MRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) and must be the same vaccine you received previously. It’s given to people with weakened immune system who scientists don’t think can mount the same amount of antibodies as others.

That may include people with cancer, patients who have had a transplant or someone who takes immunosuppressive medications.

“A booster dose is given later. It’s given six months later to people who are of vulnerable populations,” Katugaha says. “Who we believe actually did mount a response to the first two doses.”

This group includes people over 65, adults in long term care facilities, people with underlying medical conditions or people at risk of exposure due to where they work or live.

If you are getting a booster, Dr. Katugaha says you can safely mix and match your vaccine.

“What data has shown, and why we are allowed to do this, is that data has shown that if you get two MRNAs and you get the same MRNA, there is great efficacy,” Katugaha says. “And if you get two MRNAs and you get a different vaccine type, you still have great immunity. So both are good.”

Pfizer and Moderna are MRNA vaccines. So what about Johnson and Johnson? 

Dr. Katugaha says the CDC recommends every adult who received a J&J shot is eligible for a booster – ANY booster – two months after.

Since mixing and matching boosters is allowed, that gives people more options as to where they can receive a booster. Here’s what we found about booster shot locations and availability:

  • Walgreens: Now taking appointments for both boosters and third doses. Their national headquarters says they offer all three vaccines nationwide. This could, however, vary by store. 
  • Walmart: Now taking appointments for both boosters and 3rd doses. Once you log in to your account, you can view which pharmacies near you have openings and which vaccines they offer.
  • Publix: Now taking appointments for both boosters and 3rd doses of Pfizer or Moderna, however their website says supply of Johnson and Johnson vaccine is limited and will be a walk-in basis. Walk-in your local pharmacy to see if they have J&J available.
  • CVS: Now taking appointments for both boosters and 3rd doses. You’ll have to make it through the scheduling process to see which pharmacies near you carry which vaccine. 
  • Duval Health Department: The health department administers vaccines throughout the month at different locations. Check their website for details. 



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