In the wee hours of Friday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its official guidelines for who should receive a COVID-19 booster shot. The release put an end to a period of uncertainty and debate over who should be first in line for the doses.
For now, the only government-approved booster shots are from Pfizer-BioNTech. That means that the new recommendations only apply to people who have received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago. With that in mind, those now eligible for a Pfizer booster dose, according to the CDC, include:
- People 65 years and older
- Residents in long-term care settings
- People aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions
- People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions, like diabetes or obesity, may receive a booster shoot based on their individual benefits and risks
- People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their jobs—like healthcare workers, teachers, or grocery store workers—may receive a booster shot
Under these guidelines, 20 million Americans are currently eligible for a COVID booster shot as of today, President Joe Biden said in a press conference on Friday.
“My message today is this: If you’ve got the Pfizer vaccine in January, February, or March of this year, and you’re over 65 years of age, go get the booster,” Biden said. “Or if you have a medical condition of diabetes, or you’re a frontline worker like a healthcare worker or teacher, you can get a free booster now.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if flight attendants and pilots were considered eligible for the boosters as frontline workers. For his part, Biden noted he was planning to get his booster shot “as soon as I can.”
On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration also made similar recommendations for who should receive booster shots. Although only Pfizer’s booster has been approved at this point, officials say that boosters for both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are currently undergoing the approval process as well.
What this means for travelers
For travelers who are eligible for a booster dose, experts say it could be worthwhile to try to get the shot before your next trip. “If you are eligible for a booster, and you can receive it two weeks before you travel, you will be able to travel with a boosted immune system that may confer additional protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization or death,” Keri Althoff, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in an email. “Particularly if you are in a group at higher risk for COVID-19-related hospitalization or death (i.e., older adults and those with underlying medical conditions), a booster is a great idea before you travel to protect your health.”