Whitman-Walker Health’s mobile HIV/STI testing van parked during a community outreach event (Courtesy of Whitman-Walker Health)

A third, or “additional,” dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA and CDC, but what does it mean to get a third dose? A third, or “additional,” dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is a full dose of any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently approved for use in the U.S. Vaccines that are currently approved in the U.S. include the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Third doses are specifically meant for folks who are immunocompromised or who have underlying health conditions and are given at the same time as your first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Please note the CDC does not recommend mixing vaccines for a third, or additional, dose. If you receive an additional dose of a COVID-19, you should get the same vaccine — whether Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson — as the first vaccine you received.

Who and what are third doses for?

Third doses help to make sure that individuals who are immunocompromised or who have underlying health conditions receive the same amount of protection against COVID-19 that folks who are healthy with strong immune systems do. So, while 2 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine is enough to protect someone with a strong immune system against COVID-19, it is not enough to protect someone who is immunocompromised or living with an underlying health condition. That’s why we offer these individuals who are immunocompromised or living with an underlying health condition a third dose!

Whitman-Walker Health’s Max Robinson Center in historic Anacostia in southeast D.C. (Courtesy of Whitman-Walker Health)

What qualifies as an underlying health condition?

If you have any of the following health conditions or identify as immunocompromised, please consider getting a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. You can read a more detailed list of underlying conditions at CDC.gov. Folks who 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

Should talk to their health care provider about their medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them.

Am I still protected against COVID-19 if I finished my vaccine series and am currently not eligible to get a booster dose or third dose?

If you are not eligible for a booster dose or a third dose – and do NOT have a weakened immune system or underlying health condition – but you HAVE finished receiving a 2-dose Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or a 1-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you still have strong protection against COVID-19. You are also still considered to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The CDC also recently announced that people ages 18 years and older who received Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines MAY get a booster dose. However, please keep in mind that folks who are immunocompromised or who have underlying health conditions SHOULD consider getting a booster dose or third dose – per their care provider’s recommendation for their specific health needs.

Can I get my flu shot while I get a COVID-19 booster shot, third shot, or the first round of my vaccine series?

Yes! You can get your flu shot at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine booster, third dose or the first round of your vaccine series.

Whitman-Walker Health is here to help and we’re just one phone call away! We hope you’ll give us a call. Talk to your health care provider about getting a booster or third dose and whether you are eligible. To access HIV/STI testing or to get your COVID-19 vaccine, booster or third dose at Max Robinson Center, or another Whitman-Walker location, call 202.797.4439.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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