This is a guide to that process. Do you have other questions? Get in touch and a Washington Post local reporter will try to answer.
Who should get a booster shot?
If your initial coronavirus vaccine was made by either Pfizer or Moderna, you are eligible for a booster if you are 65 or older. Younger recipients of those two vaccines — meaning anyone age 18 and up — are eligible for boosters if they are at higher risk because of their job (such as health-care workers), their residence (such as those living in nursing homes, jails or homeless shelters), or their medical conditions. The list of medical conditions that put someone at higher risk of a severe case of the coronavirus and thus qualify them for a booster is long. Tens of millions of Americans qualify. Conditions include depression, being overweight, pregnancy, heart disease, cancer and many more. You can see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s full list here.
If your initial coronavirus vaccine was made by Johnson & Johnson, all adult vaccine recipients — regardless of age, occupation, or health — are eligible for boosters.
When can I get a booster shot?
People who received the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer regimens are eligible for boosters once six months have passed since their second dose, as long as they meet the other qualifications to get a booster.
People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster once two months have passed since their first shot.
Which brand of shot should I get?
You do not need to get the same brand of shot this time that you got the first time you were vaccinated against the coronavirus. The CDC is expected to publish more guidance on “mixing and matching” vaccines in the coming days.
This option is particularly appealing for people who first received the Johnson & Johnson shot, which recent studies show is somewhat less effective than the other two at preventing serious disease. Evidence shows that a booster of an mRNA vaccine — either Moderna or Pfizer — is more effective at protecting patients than a second shot of Johnson & Johnson’s formulation. One National Institutes of Health study found, preliminarily, that a J&J recipient who gets another shot of J&J will have four times the antibodies as after just one dose — compared to 35 times as many antibodies after a dose of Pfizer’s shot and 76 times as many antibodies after Moderna’s.
For those who initially received either a Pfizer or Moderna shot, the difference between getting the same shot a third time or the competitor is less significant. But the same NIH study suggested that Moderna’s booster may increase antibodies at least a bit more than Pfizer’s booster in recipients of both the Moderna and Pfizer initial doses too.
Can I sign up for a booster at a pharmacy?
Pharmacies and grocery stores across the region are now offering booster shots.
To schedule an appointment at a CVS location, you’ll simply need to provide the date of your last coronavirus vaccine dose and state that you have a qualifying condition or job; no further details needed. When you sign up, the website will tell you which brand of vaccine is available at which pharmacy locations.
Safeway allows patients to choose which brand they would like to receive, and to select whether the shot is a booster or a first dose. On the first day of Moderna booster availability, the chain had Moderna doses available in many Virginia stores and some Maryland ones. It had Pfizer doses available in the District, Maryland and Virginia, and Johnson & Johnson doses only in one store in the District and a few in the Baltimore area.
Many other pharmacies offer boosters, as do some medical clinics and hospital systems — you may be able to get one through your doctor. You can find a site near you at vaccines.gov.
Can I get a booster from a public clinic?
D.C.'s walk-up vaccination clinics now offer booster shots as well as first doses. (Though you won’t get a $51 gift card for getting vaccinated unless it’s your first time, the Department of Health said in response to an inquiry from The Post.)
The health department says that adults seeking boosters won’t need to provide evidence that they have a qualifying medical condition. You can just walk in and say you need a booster.
You can find a list of the sites operating each day, and which vaccines they provide, at this website. At the moment, D.C.'s walk-up sites are only providing Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
While some of Maryland’s mass vaccination sites have closed down, many public clinics are still operating in the state and some are now offering all three boosters. You can use the state’s vaccine finder website to look for a clinic near you.
Arlington also offers Pfizer boosters at a county-run clinic, and other Virginia jurisdictions may follow; the CDC authorization for boosters is still very new. Appointments are required for the Arlington shots.
What should I bring to my vaccine appointment?
Bring proof of insurance and identification if you have them, though if you don’t have insurance or identification, you’ll still be able to get a shot at some locations. Wherever you go, the shot is free for you, by federal law, but your insurance company might be charged for it.
And bring the vaccine card that you received when you first got vaccinated against coronavirus. It’s time to add another entry to that card.