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CDC shortens waiting period for Pfizer booster shot to 5 months

The waiting period recommendations for the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster doses have not changed.
Image: Pfizer booster shot
DeMarcus Hicks, a recent nursing school graduate, administers a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine booster shot, on Dec. 20, 2021, in Federal Way, Wash.Ted S. Warren / AP file

If you received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination, you can get a booster shot five months after your second dose, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.

The federal government previously recommended a waiting period of six months between the first two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and the booster shot.

"As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to update our recommendations to ensure the best possible protection for the American people," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

"Today’s recommendations ensure people are able to get a boost of protection in the face of Omicron and increasing cases across the country," she added.

The Food and Drug Administration made the same recommendation Monday.

The waiting period recommendations for the two other authorized vaccines have not changed, the CDC said.

If you received two primary doses of the Moderna vaccine, the CDC recommends that you wait six months before getting a booster. If you received the Johnson & Johnson shot, the agency recommends that you wait two months.

Tens of millions of people in the United States are eligible for a Pfizer booster after completing their primary series five months ago, on Aug. 4, according to data compiled by NBC News.

Currently, only about 33 percent of eligible people in the U.S. have received a booster, according to the CDC, even though two doses of the Pfizer vaccine have shown diminished effectiveness against the omicron variant.

The U.S. is not the only country to shorten the interval between the primary series shots and the booster dose.

Countries such as the United KingdomGreeceSouth Korea, Germany and Israel are now allowing people to get the third dose just three months after their second shot. 

In addition to updating booster shot guidelines, the CDC said it was recommending that "moderately or severely immunocompromised" children between the ages of 5 and 11 get an additional primary dose of the Pfizer vaccine 28 days after their second shot.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is currently the only Covid shot that is authorized and recommended for children in that age range.

"If you or your children are eligible for a third dose or a booster, please go out and get one as soon as you can," Walensky said in a statement.

The CDC’s panel of advisers is slated to meet Wednesday to discuss whether the agency should officially recommend a booster shot for children ages 12 to 15. The FDA authorized that recommendation Monday.