Coronavirus: Up to date or fully vaccinated? What’s the difference?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday updated its COVID-19 vaccination guidance to clarify the difference between staying “up to date” with vaccines and being fully vaccinated.

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Questions have swirled over whether the CDC would update its definition of “fully vaccinated” since booster shots became available last year. Studies have shown that vaccine protection wanes over time, though booster shots greatly bolster protection.

Since vaccines became available nationwide, the CDC has considered people to be fully vaccinated if they’ve received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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“That has not changed, and we do not have any plans to change that,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said Wednesday at a White House COVID-19 Response Team news briefing.

Rather than update the definition of “fully vaccinated,” the CDC on Wednesday recommended that people “stay up to date” with their vaccines, including getting a booster dose or a third vaccine dose for those who are eligible.

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“Consistent with how public health has historically viewed or even talked about how we recommend vaccines, we are now recommending that individuals stay up to date with additional doses that they are eligible for,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

Officials said people who are up to date with their vaccines “are well protected from serious illness or other health outcomes.” Zients emphasized Wednesday that a “vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated Americans.”

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Who is eligible for additional or booster vaccine doses?

Moderately or severely immunocompromised people: Those aged five and older who have weakened immune systems are encouraged to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.

Moderately or severely immunocompromised people who were vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also encouraged to get a third vaccine dose 28 days after getting their second shots. People aged 16 and older are also encouraged to get a booster vaccine dose five months after getting their third shot.

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The CDC recommends that those aged 18 and older who got the Moderna vaccine get a third shot 28 days after getting their second shot and get a booster vaccine dose six months later.

Moderately or severely immunocompromised people who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are encouraged to get a booster dose of any of the available vaccines two months after getting their shots.

Adults and teens who got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine: People aged 18 and older who were vaccinated with the shots developed by Pfizer and BioNTech are encouraged to get booster doses of either the same vaccine or the Moderna vaccine five months after getting their second doses.

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Officials said 16 and 17 year olds can also get booster vaccine doses, though the Moderna vaccine is not available to people in that age group.

Adults who got the Moderna vaccine: The CDC recommends that people aged 18 and older who were fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine get booster doses of either the same vaccine or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months after getting their second shots.

Adults who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: Officials encourage people who were fully vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to get a booster dose at least two months after getting their shots. The CDC says that in most situations, it encourages people to get boosted using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine.