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Moderna COVID booster authorized: Who can get it and when?

You might be eligible to get the Moderna booster shot now. Here's what we know.

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Moderna boosters are here.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

This week, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized a booster shot of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. This applies to adults age 65 and older, those who are at risk of severe COVID-19 disease and adults with "frequent institutional or occupational exposure." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday evening also gave the OK to get the booster shot.

The FDA also said those who received Moderna's two-dose vaccine and are eligible for a booster can now mix and match: They can get a booster shot of Pfizer's or Johnson & Johnson's vaccines (more below). Earlier this month, the FDA signed off on a booster for many who received Pfizer's vaccine.

The delta variant surged in the US over the summer, causing a rise in case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19. The vaccines that are approved by the FDA have proven to be highly effective in preventing hospitalization, and those who are unvaccinated are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized. With the new federal vaccine mandates, the Biden administration aims to counter the surge and put pressure on anyone who hasn't been vaccinated. 

Here's what we know right now about when you could get a Moderna booster shot, who is eligible and where to get it. For more on COVID-19, here's the latest on COVID-19 vaccines for kids, what to do if you lost your vaccination card, the difference between a booster and a third dose and breakthrough infections. And here's what you should know about the new federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

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Who can get a Moderna COVID-19 booster shot?

The FDA authorized a Moderna vaccine booster for Moderna recipients age 65 years of age and older and adults who are at high risk because of severe illness or exposure in their work setting. Additionally, all Johnson & Johnson recipients age 18 and older will also be able to get a Moderna booster after two months of getting vaccinated, and will be eligible for Pfizer's booster. Those who are eligible can get their shots now. 

The CDC recommends the following people to get their booster shot six months after they've been fully vaccinated with either Pfizer or Moderna.

  • Those who are 65 years and older
  • Those age 18 or older who live in long-term care settings
  • Those age 18 or older who have underlying medical conditions
  • Those age 18 or older who work or live in high-risk settings

You can now mix and match vaccines

The FDA has authorized mixing COVID boosters, which includes Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Anyone eligible for a booster can get any of the available brands of coronavirus vaccines. If you received Johnson and Johnson, you'll be able to get the Moderna or Pfizer booster if it's been two months or longer since you received the initial dose. If you received Moderna or Pfizer for your first two shots, you could get any vaccine -- including J&J -- if it's been six months or longer since your second shot.

What would a Moderna booster shot do?

A COVID-19 booster shot -- whether from Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson -- would top off your immune response and guard against a breakthrough COVID infection as the vaccine's effectiveness decreases.

Recent studies of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines show that their effectiveness can begin to wane after six months. Moderna said early data suggests that those who received the Moderna vaccine in 2020 are showing a higher rate of breakthrough COVID infections than those vaccinated this year, suggesting the need for a booster to maintain high levels of protection.

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President Biden is pushing for vaccine booster shots.

Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

Will the Moderna booster be the same as the two Moderna COVID-19 shots?

Yes, almost. As with Pfizer's booster, the third Moderna shot will be the same vaccine as the first two doses, except it'll be a half dose. To make your life simpler, Moderna is also working on a combination shot that includes this year's flu vaccine and its COVID-19 booster vaccine, but that is not available right now.

Where can I get my Moderna booster shot?

According to the White House, boosters will be available at roughly 80,000 places across the country, including over 40,000 local pharmacies. Some 90% of Americans have a vaccine site within 5 miles of where they live. You can check Vaccines.gov to see which vaccines are available where, or call 1-800-232-0233 for vaccine information.

Do I have to pay for the Moderna COVID-19 booster shot?

No, the booster shot will be free regardless of immigration or health insurance status. 

For more on coronavirus treatments and vaccines, here's what we know about monoclonal antibody treatments, the new federal vaccine mandates and why some people may not want the shot.

CNET's Jessica Rendall contributed to this article. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.