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Q&A: Harris County doctor explains COVID-19 booster shots

HOUSTON – KPRC 2 reporter Haley Hernandez speaks with Dr. Gary Sheppard, president of the Harris County Medical Society, to break down what people need to know about the COVID-19 booster shots.

Who can get a booster shot now?

The booster shots are recommended for people that are immunocompromised.

According to Memorial Hermann, these moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals include:

  • Those receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.
  • Organ transplant recipients and those who are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Those who have received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome).
  • Those with advanced or untreated HIV infection.
  • Those undergoing active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress their immune response.

Can I mix mRNA vaccines?

When it comes to booster shots, can you get any that are available?

If you got Pfizer, can you get Moderna and vice versa? The answer is no. You should know which one you got initially and stick with it.

“You still should have your card, or you should have a picture of your card maybe on your phone,” Sheppard said. “Even if you don’t have that, you’re able, the pharmacies, your doctor’s offices wherever is actually able to query that ImmTrac, which is the place where everybody had to actually upload the information for the vaccine.”

He said, just like with childhood vaccines, there is a record of it through the state health department.

When should I get a booster?

“Currently, we are expecting that by next month the FDA will approve for everyone above the age of 16 to have booster shots, and that would be eight months after you had your second vaccine,” Sheppard said.

Why do I need a booster?

Sheppard said a booster is needed to ramp up the immune system and help fight variants.

“As we take our measles, mumps and rubella when you’re a child, or you take a tetanus shot every 10 years. It’s the same principle. Your body needs that booster to be able to help fight off, because your immunity, what we call wanes, so it lessens over a period of time,” he said.

Where do I get a booster?

“Pharmacies and your doctor’s offices or your clinics. Those are the type of places that we’re expecting to be able to get the vaccine,” he said.

When will I need a booster, if I received the J&J?

Patients who got Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine will need to wait for that booster and not take an mRNA vaccine, per CDC recommendations.

The company is in Phase 2 of its study on boosters. Sheppard said he expects they’ll have a booster shot available soon after Pfizer and Moderna.