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Moderna COVID booster: What to know about mix and match, 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.

The Moderna booster shot against COVID-19 got the green light last week after lengthy debate that culminated in the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorizing the drug for a third dose. But that doesn't mean it'll be available to everyone -- at least not yet. We'll walk you through who's eligible to receive the Moderna booster shot, when, and what the deal is with mixing and matching vaccine brands.

Authorization for the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson booster shots comes at a time when the deadly and highly contagious delta variant surged in the US, causing hospitals in some states to once again buckle. With cases, hospitalizations and deaths beginning to plateau, epidemiologists worry about another wave of COVID infections as cold weather drives people indoors in closer quarters, and as the annual flu season begins to kick in, eroding immune systems.

The FDA-approved COVID vaccines 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. 

Keep reading for more details on Moderna's COVID-19 booster shot. 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

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Who can get a Moderna COVID-19 booster shot now?

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 two months after being vaccinated, and will be eligible for Pfizer's booster too. Those who are eligible can get their shots now. 

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

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

Yes, you can now mix and match vaccines

The FDA has authorized mixing COVID boosters, which in the US 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 & 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 does the 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.

Is the Moderna booster shot the same as the original COVID-19 doses?

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 the 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 800-232-0233 for vaccine information.

Is the Moderna COVID-19 booster shot free or do I have to pay?

All booster shots will be free regardless of immigration or health insurance status. However, depending on where you get your booster shot -- for example, at a local pharmacy -- you may be asked to log your insurance status. For example, you may be asked to provide your insurance card information, including your name, date of birth and membership number. You will not be charged for your COVID vaccine or booster shot.

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.

Will I need a fourth COVID booster shot?

While this question has been raised, there's no current plan for a fourth Moderna booster shot at this time. We'll keep you updated as the situation develops.

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.