Millions of Ohioans are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Friday.

The boosters have started to roll out at pharmacies across the Valley, and many people are jumping at the chance to get that third dose of protection. However, others still need a few questions answered before they make the decision.

Why get a booster shot?

One question in particular is why is a booster shot necessary? According to health officials, it's an extra measure vulnerable populations can take for added protection against the highly transmissible Delta variant.

"We know that these vaccines, like any other vaccine, typically wane. It decreases in effectiveness," Ryan Tekac, the health commissioner for Mahoning County Public Health, said. "Especially for those age groups and individuals who identify with having underlying health conditions, because we know that impacts them the most."

The CDC released a statement addressing the necessity of a booster dose for some population groups on Aug. 18.

"The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States continue to be remarkably effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said. "Recognizing that many vaccines are associated with a reduction in protection over time, and acknowledging that additional vaccine doses could be needed to provide long lasting protection, we have been analyzing the scientific data closely from the United States and around the world to understand how long this protection will last and how we might maximize this protection."

Who is eligible for a booster shot?

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) issued booster guidance Saturday, including who can get the extra dose: 

  • People 65 years and older or residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot.
  • People ages 50 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot.
  • People ages 18 to 49 with certain underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot based on their individual benefits and risks. The CDC has indicated that this is a determination made by the vaccine recipient, but those eligible are encouraged to talk to their healthcare providers if they have any questions.
  • People age 18 and older who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their job or living in an institutional setting may receive a booster shot based on their individual benefits and risks.

To be eligible, people in the above groups must have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and are at least six months removed from becoming fully vaccinated. 

What about Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients?

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients are not yet eligible for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

"At this point, they are not [eligible]. There's additional studies that are taking place, data that's going to be submitted to the CDC, going through the same process that Pfizer has gone through," Tekac said. "In the weeks to come, we'll find out more information [on] if they'll be eligible to receive them as well."

Tekac also said Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients cannot mix vaccines, meaning they cannot get a Pfizer booster shot if they completed either of the other two vaccine regimens. 

A recent Johnson & Johnson's study found its booster shot to give recipients added protection.

"Our single-shot vaccine generates strong immune responses and long-lasting immune memory. And, when a booster of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is given, the strength of protection against COVID-19 further increases," the company said.  

Both companies will need to get emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommendations from the CDC, before people can be administered their booster shots. 

Where can you get a booster shot?

Another big question is do you have to get the booster shot from your original vaccine provider? 

So, say you received your two Pfizer doses from the Mahoning County Public Health building, can you get a third dose somewhere else? Or do you have to return there for a booster?

"If you received your vaccination, let's say, here at [The Mahoning County Public Health building], that does not necessarily mean you have to come back to our office for a booster," Tekac said. 

You're able to get a booster from any eligible vaccine provider, including Pharmacies across the Valley. Pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, Meijer, Walmart and Rite Aid all accept walk-in appointments as well as scheduled booster appointments. 

For more information on scheduling a booster shot, you can visit ODH's Get The Shot website. 

Do you need to bring your vaccine card?

Tekac said if you have your vaccine card from your original two-dose regimen, to bring it to your booster shot appointment. 

"If you have your vaccine card ... you're encouraged to bring it because we can go ahead and write on that card that you received your booster shot," he said.

If you laminated your vaccine card, misplaced it or don't have it anymore, Tekac says you can call your original vaccine provider or your local health department, to replace it before you get your booster shot.