The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all eligible individuals be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends all eligible persons aged 12 years and older, including those who are pregnant and lactating, receive a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series.
- The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty) and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (Spikevax) are preferred over the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine for all vaccine-eligible individuals, including those who are pregnant and lactating, for primary series, primary additional doses (for immunocompromised persons), and booster vaccination.
All three of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. have been shown to be highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Safe During Pregnancy?
- Antibodies produced from the vaccines that help protect against COVID-19 wear off over time. A COVID-19 vaccine booster helps extend the protection for a longer period. Emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for COVID-19 vaccines allow for the use of a single booster dose.
- The ACOG recommends pregnant and recently pregnant people up to six weeks postpartum receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine following the completion of their initial COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine series.
- Each of the available COVID-19 vaccines may be used as a “mix and match” booster dose in eligible individuals following completion of primary vaccination with a different available COVID-19 vaccine.
How Do Vaccines and Boosters Work?
Vaccines help the body produce immunity to infection by imitating the infecting agent. Vaccines almost never cause serious illness, but instead boost the body’s adaptive immune function to produce T-lymphocytes and antibodies (parts of the immune system that help the body fight germs).
- Once the simulated infection created by the vaccine goes away, the body has a “memory” of T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that remember how to fight that infection in the future.
- Following immunization, it can take several weeks for the body to produce the produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes needed to fight infection, so it is possible a person could become infected with COVID just before or just after vaccination because the body has not yet had time to build its defenses.
- The first set of vaccinations helps train the body’s immune system to recognize the virus and fight off the infection. The booster shot helps strengthen or prolong that immune response.
What Are the Side Effects of the COVID-19 Vaccines and Boosters?
After the COVID-19 vaccine is administered and the body is building its defenses, people may experience mild side effects starting a day or two after receiving the vaccine that can last a few days. This is normal and expected and a sign the body’s immune system is responding as it should.
People may also experience similar side effects when receiving the COVID-19 vaccines booster shot.
Common side effects and reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters include:
- Injection site reactions (pain, tenderness, redness, swelling)
- Muscle aches or pains
Rarely, severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, can occur after receiving any vaccine. This type of reaction has only occurred in about 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated in the U.S. These kinds of allergic reactions usually occur within 30 minutes after vaccination and can be immediately and effectively treated.
People who are allergic to specific ingredients in the current vaccines are advised to avoid that particular vaccine. Those prone to allergic reactions, but who do not have a known allergy to a component of the vaccine, are advised to receive the vaccine in a healthcare facility and to wait 30 minutes (instead of 15) following an injection.
There is a Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) in place for patients to report unexpected vaccine side effects.
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