As we head into a third pandemic holiday season, it’s important that you’re as protected as possible against COVID-19 so you reduce the risk of contracting the virus and spreading it on to loved ones.
Luckily, we have updated booster shots that target both the original strain of COVID and the dominant omicron variant and its highly-contagious subvariants. It’s a different formula than the original vaccine and booster, which makes it that much more important to get ahead of the holiday season.
It takes our bodies time to respond to the vaccine and for the vaccine to become fully effective. As we inch closer to Thanksgiving, it’s crucial that you give the shot enough time to become as protective as possible.
Here, experts share the ideal time to get your free booster shot:
You need to get your shot at least two weeks before the holiday.
According to Dr. David Wohl, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine, “it can take a good two weeks to get the full effect of the vaccine.” And exactly two weeks before Thanksgiving is Thursday, Nov. 10.
The body’s response to booster shots is quicker than an original vaccine, so it may be fully effective before that two-week mark, but that’s a safe guarantee for full efficacy, added Dr. Jason Gallagher, a clinical professor at Temple University’s School of Pharmacy.
You should get it now to reap even more benefits.
Just because Nov. 10 is the last day you can get the shot with the guarantee that it will be effective by Thanksgiving, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until then to get the jab.
“From a logistics standpoint, I would get boosted now,” Gallagher said. He noted that many people will likely want to get their shot right before Thanksgiving, so it may be hard to get an appointment as we get closer and closer to the holiday.
“If [you get] vaccinated now, will you still be protected at Thanksgiving? The answer to that is a pretty easy yes,” Gallagher said. So, there is no reason to delay.
Need even more reason to get your shot sooner rather than later? The official guidance from Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, is that you should get boosted by Halloween to make sure you’re protected from infection as the holiday season arrives.
You can make an appointment to get your booster at pharmacies and medical centers near you using vaccines.gov’s vaccine finder or you can directly visit your local pharmacy’s website to make an appointment. The shot is free for everyone — even if you don’t have health insurance.
But, keep in mind that you should wait at least two months after infection or vaccination to get this new shot — and some experts say you should wait even longer than two months after infection.
Also, remember that this booster shot is only available to people who have completed their primary vaccine series. If you are not vaccinated, you need to start with the primary two-dose vaccine series, which is also available at your local pharmacy.
This shot targets the dominant variants circulating right now.
The new bivalent booster shot was made to target the omicron strain, specifically BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which are currently the dominant COVID subvariants in the U.S.
“This is the first time since the vaccines were first made available that we’ve had a vaccine that matches well against a circulating variant,” Gallagher said. “You really want to maximize the benefit of that before those variants change by getting boosted as soon as possible.”
As of now, children and adults 5 and up can get the booster shot — but children who are 5 must get the Pfizer shot. The Moderna booster is currently only available to those 6 and up.
To protect yourself and your loved ones, it’s important to stay up to date on your boosters.
“With prior vaccination and immunity from previous infections, we are at less risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19,” Wohl said. “But infection has consequences.”
Those consequences include the potential to develop long COVID, which, according to a new study, impacts almost half of those who are infected with the virus — this can mean long-term symptoms like confusion, fatigue, breathlessness and chest pain.
“Vaccination has been found to lower the chance of [long COVID],” Wohl said, which is why it’s even more important to get your vaccines when they’re available to you. Protect yourself and others.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.