The difference between a third shot and a booster shot

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine.


CONCORD, N.C. — The push to vaccinate continues to be at the center of the fight against the pandemic, especially on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement to roll out shots for kids 5 to 11.


What You Need To Know

  • A third shot is for immunocompromised people who didn’t build up enough immunity after two shots
  • The booster is to boost the vaccine current effectiveness
  • There are requirements for each

A question many adults may be asking right now is whether they need a booster shot.

Another question is if this booster shot is also called a third shot.

If you’ve ever heard the term “booster shot” and a “third shot” used interchangeably, they shouldn’t be.

According to the CDC, they are different.

Dr. Joe Moose, pharmacist and owner of Moose Pharmacy, explains why.

A third dose is for people whose immune systems didn’t build up enough immunity after the first two shots.

They need an additional dose to get that same level of protection as people who only needed two doses.

This is primarily for people who are immunocompromised or those 65 and older.

“So the idea is to complete the series,” Moose said. “If you are considered a completely healthy person, that’s two doses of Pfizer or Moderna to complete the series. If you are immunocompromised, that’s three doses to complete the series.”

The booster shot sounds interchangeable, right? Not according to the CDC. The booster is more of a super charge to help boost the current vaccine’s effectiveness, increasing your level of antibodies to increase protection. Moose says the antibodies can wane over time.

“So that booster shot is getting that level back up,” Moose said.

For a booster of Pfizer or Moderna, you must be 18 years or older living in a long-term care facility, 18 years or older working or living in high-risk settings, 18 or older with underlying medical conditions, or 65 or older.

People 18 and older who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can get a booster shot, at least two months after their first dose.



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