If you are moderate to severely immunocompromised—including if you’ve had an organ transplant or if you are being treated for cancer—the CDC now recommends that you get an extra dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Who does this apply to?
The CDC’s recommendation is for anyone who is “moderately to severely” immunocompromised. As we covered earlier, many immunocompromised people have good protection after two doses of an mRNA vaccine, but some do not. People with cancer and people who have had organ transplants are among those who may not respond as well to the vaccine.
The CDC recommends that you consider a third dose if you have:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response
If you’re not sure whether you qualify, they suggest consulting your doctor.
Okay, when do I need my next shot?
After getting your first two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine on the normal schedule, you should come back at least 28 days later for a third dose. If it’s been longer, that’s fine.
The vaccine should be the same one you got originally, if possible: If your first two doses were Moderna, your third should be Moderna. But if you don’t remember which you got, or if the one you originally got is not available, either is acceptable.
What if I got the J&J?
This recommendation is only for people who have already gotten (or who intend to get) one of the mRNA vaccines—Pfizer or Moderna. This is because evidence shows that some immunocompromised people may not be fully protected after two doses of those vaccines, but adding a third shot improves their protection. There is no evidence yet about whether a booster is needed or even would help with the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine.