Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccine Booster
The COVID-19 vaccine booster is administered to previously vaccinated individuals when the immunity developed from the primary vaccine series starts to decline. Clinical evidence shows that the immunity from the first two doses of the primary vaccine series to protect against severe COVID-19 disease gradually declines after six months. The booster dose is therefore aimed to help restore and maintain the level of immunity and offer long-lasting protection against all variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Approved COVID-19 vaccine boosters
The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters have been approved for use among eligible individuals in some countries such as the USA and the UK. In Qatar, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has been administering the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster to high-risk individuals since September 2021 (e.g. adults with chronic conditions, immunocompromised adults, frontline healthcare workers).
In Qatar, if a period of six months has passed after an individual has received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, they are eligible to receive the vaccine booster regardless of their age and health status.
Safety and side-effects
Following a booster vaccine dose, the common side-effects reported from clinical trials are similar or fewer than the initial dose(s). These include having a painful or sore arm, fatigue, headache, and mild flu-like symptoms. Other rare serious risks which have been reported include myocarditis and pericarditis among young males below the age of 30 years. It is also recommended and deemed safe to take the COVID-19 vaccine booster along with the flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US.
As per the MOPH, it is strongly recommended that all individuals planning to travel abroad take their vaccine booster prior to travel if they have received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months ago. This is to ensure a continued high level of protection against COVID-19 circulating widely in many parts of the world. The MOPH has also stressed that it is important for all eligible individuals to get the vaccine booster no later than 12 months after the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to maintain the Gold Vaccination Status on Ehteraz.
In Qatar, COVID-19 vaccine boosters are available at all Primary Health Care Centers (PHCC). All eligible individuals are directly contacted by the PHCC to schedule an appointment for the booster. Individuals who are eligible but have not yet been contacted by the PHCC are encouraged to call the hotline on 4027 7077 to schedule an appointment.
As we all endeavor to make progress towards ending the pandemic, unvaccinated individuals are advised to get their initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Also, regardless of the vaccination status, we all should continue to follow the public health guidelines issued by the MOPH and adhere to safety measures like wearing masks, frequent handwashing, and maintaining physical distancing.
Authors: Ms. Anupama Jithesh, Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Dr. Amit Abraham, and Dr. Karima Chaabna
Sources: Ministry of Public Health-Qatar | U.S. Food and Drug Administration | The World Health Organization | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Editing: Mr. John Hayward