Empty bottles of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

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If it’s been six months since you got your second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 in Philly, and you’re 18 or older, you might be eligible for a booster shot.

After the FDA authorized it on Sept. 22 and the CDC made it official on Sept. 24, the city Department of Public Health is recommending boosters for older Philadelphians, especially those with underlying conditions, and making it optional for adults of all ages who work in high-risk frontline positions.

Scroll down for more info about who can get it, where to find it, what to do if you don’t have your vax card — or laminated it — and what to bring with you to the appointment.

Who’s eligible for a booster shot?

If you got the Pfizer vaccine more than 6 months ago, boosters are strongly recommended if you are:

  • 65 or older
  • Live in a nursing home
  • between 50-64 and have underlying medical conditions that put you at risk of COVID complications

Boosters are also suggested if you are:

  • Between 18-49 and have underlying medical conditions that put you at risk of COVID complications
  • Any age and work in a high-risk environment,

What qualifies as a high-risk environment?

Think frontline workers. The CDC wording for this category is “high-risk occupational and institutional setting,” and can include:

  • Teachers
  • Day-care staff
  • Health care and hospital workers
  • Nurses and home health aides
  • Grocery store employees
  • Restaurant workers
  • Food and agriculture workers
  • Public transit employees
  • Manufacturing workers
  • USPS workers

Where can I get the shot?

At any location offering the Pfizer vaccine. You don’t have to go back to your original place of vaccination.

The Philly health department maintains a list of places where you can schedule an appointment, or walk in and get vaccinated, at phila.gov/vaccine.

You can also use the national site at vaccines.gov or call 215-685-5488 for help finding a location.

Will I have to pay for it?

Like all COVID vaccines in the U.S., the Pfizer booster shot is free.

Your insurance might get billed, depending what coverage you have, but you shouldn’t have to pay anything because the federal government is taking care of all copays.

Will I need to show ID?

No. Per the health department, you don’t need to show any kind of government identification to get a COVID booster.

You do have to prove you got the first two doses of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months ago, which means you need your vax card — or at least a photo of it on your phone.

If you lost your vaccination card, you can fill out the form at bit.ly/philavaxrecordrequest to request a copy of your vaccine record (it’ll be a piece of paper, not a card, but means the same thing).

What if I laminated my vaccine card?

It probably doesn’t matter.

Many clinics can put a sticker right on top of the lamination to mark your booster shot (all the city-run vaccination sites operate this way). Other places will give you an entirely new card with all past information copied onto it.

Can people who got Moderna or J&J get a booster?

The CDC and FDA haven’t yet recommended booster shots for people who got the other two types of COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S.

National health officials also said they do not recommend or endorse “mix-and-match” — i.e. don’t get a Pfizer booster if you originally got Moderna or J&J.

Trials for both have been happening, and announcements are expected relatively soon. Moderna has even already applied for emergency use authorization for its booster.

Exception: If you’re immunocompromised

Back in August, the CDC and FDA authorized an additional dose 4 weeks after any immunocompromised person is fully vaccinated.

So if your immune system is weakened for whatever reason, you can and should get another dose of Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J pretty much ASAP.

Why should I get a booster shot?

Booster shots are common across many standard vaccinations.

The annual “flu shot” is a booster, for example, and so is the “tetanus shot” you’re supposed to get every so often if you want to stay protected against getting poked with a rusty nail.

In Philly, there has been a rise in so-called breakthrough COVID cases — i.e. people testing positive for the coronavirus even after being fully vaccinated. Health department epidemiologists say some of this could be because of “waning” effectiveness, which would be addressed by a booster.

In essence, a booster is a reminder to your immune system to keep making antibodies against the virus that causes COVID. While you can still get infected, you’re less likely to get seriously sick, and much, much, much less likely to die of COVID.

Are there side effects?

Same as the original shot, but likely a bit milder.

If your arm felt sore, or you were tired, or felt achy after your first or second dose, you might feel that way again with the booster.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the membership program. She is a former food...