What to Know About COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters: An Op-Ed by NYC's Top Doctor

Dr. Dave Chokshi is commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He has taken care of patients as a primary care physician at Bellevue Hospital since 2014 and battled COVID himself this year

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The federal government approved COVID booster shots last month for millions of Americans, including the mixing and matching of vaccine brands. Health officials say the latter is safe -- and boosters are recommended for most of the population.

Many people, naturally, still have questions. Here's everything you need to know about COVID booster shots -- who is eligible, where to get them and why they're needed -- according to New York City's top doctor, Dave Chokshi.

Read his unedited op-ed below and learn more about COVID boosters here.

What to Know About COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters

Recently, important updates about the COVID-19 vaccine were announced -- that certain people are now eligible for a "booster" dose. Since the beginning of COVID-19, our scientific understanding of the virus has constantly evolved, and many New Yorkers understandably have questions about this new development.

I would like to provide the "who, why, and where" about boosters.

Who should get a booster? All three brands of booster shots are available for many New Yorkers -- Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson -- and “mixing and matching” of the vaccines is safe. But who is eligible for a booster depends on the vaccine you originally received.

At this time, the Pfizer and Moderna boosters are approved for certain people vaccinated at least six months ago -- specifically, people who are aged 65 or older, adults with underlying medical conditions (like diabetes) and adults at higher risk of exposure due to their job (like health care workers) or due to where they live (like nursing home residents).

The Johnson & Johnson booster is approved for anyone ages 18 or older who received [the vaccine] at least two months ago -- as I did. Since "mixing and matching" is now authorized, Johnson & Johnson recipients can get a booster of any of the three authorized vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson). There is limited data showing that Moderna or Pfizer vaccines could result in higher antibody levels.

Why get a booster? The science continues to show that all three of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and save lives. That’s why getting more New Yorkers vaccinated with their first and second doses remains the most important thing. The booster adds another layer of protection -- it is meant to “boost” your immunity. This is particularly important for people who are most at risk for severe illness.

Where can New Yorkers get a booster? In New York City, booster shots are available at sites in all five boroughs, and for in-home vaccination. To find a location near you, go to nyc.gov/vaccinefinder. The vaccines are free at city sites to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status.

Already, over 250,000 New Yorkers have received a booster shot. That means thousands of New Yorkers will have stronger protection from COVID-19. They will be able to gather with friends, family and loved ones more safely. And for any New Yorkers who are still unvaccinated, I urge you to take the first step today -- join 6 million other New Yorkers and get vaccinated. It is our single best way out of this pandemic and a return to normal life again.

New York City and New Jersey Vaccine Providers

Click on each provider to find more information on scheduling appointments for the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Data: City of New York, State of New Jersey • Nina Lin / NBC

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