If you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends different numbers of vaccines depending on if you are immunocompromised.
Immunocompromised people can include people 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
As of December 2022, the COVID-19 vaccination recommendation for immunocompromised people, including active cancer patients, includes:
- Full primary vaccination series:
- Moderna: 3 vaccines
- Pfizer-BioNTech: 3 vaccines
- Novavax: 2 vaccines
- Johnson & Johnson/Jansen: 2 vaccines
- Up-to-date booster shots whenever you are eligible, including the updated bivalent booster (Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech). The bivalent booster offers protection against both the original virus that caused COVID-19 and the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5, and can be received at least two months after completion of either primary vaccination with any authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine or receipt of the most recent booster dose.
A booster dose is another dose given to fully vaccinated persons to extend their immune response. It is not the same as an additional dose. The primary vaccination series helps certain immunocompromised people achieve full vaccination. A primary series for immunocompromised people is three doses of the mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna).
Why should I get another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?
Research shows that people being treated for cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma are more likely to get very sick if they get COVID-19. They may also have a longer illness. Data suggests that additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, for example, provides more protection against these risks — especially the updated bivalent booster that provides protection against the Omicron variants.
Studies have found that individuals actively being treated for cancer had lower immune responses to the COVID-19 vaccines compared with non-immunocompromised individuals, though it was still sufficient to protect against severe disease. Patients who received mRNA vaccines like those offered by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna had stronger responses than those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. An additional dose also induced a higher immune response, and it was safe and well-tolerated.
The CDC continues to recommend that everyone age 5 and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated, including receiving a booster shot.
If I am not moderately to severely immunocompromised, which vaccines should I receive and when?
It is recommended that all eligible individuals receive an updated bivalent booster dose. This can be obtained two months after the last booster or primary series vaccine.
Remember to talk with your doctor if you have any questions about what is right for you.
Where should I get another dose?
If you are eligible for an additional dose or booster shot, you should get one soon at a location that is convenient to you. Community locations, such as CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, offer additional vaccine doses to eligible patients right now. You do not need a doctor’s note to get a booster or additional dose at these locations. Find one near you at vaxfinder.mass.gov or www.vaccines.gov.