You might wonder how long after COVID you can get a booster. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises waiting for a booster dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine until after your isolation period ends.
Everyone aged 5 years and older should get one dose of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Read on to learn about how getting a booster provides added protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants, such as Omicron.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises getting a booster to help protect you against evolving strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, even if you previously had COVID-19.
“I always like to remind people what the word ‘booster’ means,” Michael Bauer, MD, a pediatrician at Lake Forest Pediatric Associates, told Health. “It reminds your immune system to rev up again [to produce more antibodies].”
SARS-CoV-2 has evolved to produce many different variants since the COVID-19 pandemic began. For example, the Omicron variant became predominant in November 2021. There are several Omicron subvariants, and experts say the virus will continue to evolve.
Staying up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses, helps protect you against new subvariants. For example, the bivalent booster targets Omicron subvariants in addition to the original SARS-CoV-2. The CDC notes that people who previously had COVID-19 and do not receive a booster are likelier to become reinfected than others.
The CDC advises waiting to get a booster until after your isolation period ends. You risk spreading COVID-19 to healthcare providers and others if you seek a booster while sick.
The CDC urges you to isolate for at least five days if you test positive for COVID-19, with day 0 being when your symptoms begin. You may end your isolation period after five days if you do not have a fever for at least 24 hours without using a fever reducer or have no symptoms. Avoid others who may get very sick from COVID-19 and wear a high-quality mask until day 11.
The CDC advises isolating for at least 10 days if you have moderate symptoms. Consult a healthcare provider about when to end your isolation period if you have severe symptoms or a weak immune system.
The CDC says people who previously had COVID-19 should receive a booster within three months after infection for the best protection. Of note: As of 2023, you do not need to wait 90 days to receive a vaccine or booster if you had monoclonal antibody treatment.
People are unlikely to get reinfected right away. A study published in 2021 noted that the risk of getting another COVID-19 infection within 90 days is exceedingly low. That’s because people develop antibodies to help fight off the virus, said Dr. Bauer.
“If you’ve been vaccinated and then get a COVID infection, that infection is actually serving a similar role to a booster,” said Dr. Bauer. “In effect, you are getting a booster at that point by natural immunity.”
Consider getting a booster as soon as possible after a COVID-19 infection if you:
- Have a risk of severe illness from COVID-19
- Have a close contact or loved one with a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19
- Live in an area with a high COVID-19 hospital admission level
In general, the CDC urges you to stay up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines, which reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, hospitalization, and death. The NIH reports that staying up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses, helps protect you against emerging variants.
Boosters are a “more reliable means of offering longer-term protection” than natural immunity, Jonathan Li, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Health.
“We just don’t know how well that recent infection is going to protect that individual against subsequent infection, whereas a booster is standardized,” said Dr. Li.
A study published in 2022 found that previous infection protected people 46.1% against the Omicron subvariant BA.2. That protection increased to 77.3% among people who had previous infection and three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Everyone older than 6 months may receive COVID-19 vaccines, including a booster dose. What kind and when you may receive a booster depends on your initial vaccination series and how long it’s been since your last dose. Your age and health status may also play a role, as well.
According to the CDC, here’s how many booster doses you need to stay up-to-date:
- Children aged 6 months to 4 years: May need multiple booster doses, depending on how many and what kind (e.g., Moderna or Pfizer) they have received
- People aged 5 and older: One dose of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
- People with a weak immune system: Eligible for additional doses of updated COVID-19 vaccines
The SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to evolve and produce new variants that may cause reinfection. It’s essential to keep up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, even if you previously tested positive. Vaccination helps protect you against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
According to the CDC, people who previously had COVID-19 and do not receive a vaccine or booster within 90 days after infection are more likely to get COVID-19 again than others. Consult a healthcare provider about receiving a booster dose if it’s been three months since you’ve had COVID-19.