Learn More: What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines for Older Adults (Age 65+)

The best protection against COVID-19 is to be up to date with your vaccines.  You are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines if you have gotten your primary series of COVID-19 shots and a bivalent booster (the updated booster).

FDA Approvals (as of September 2022)

Primary Series:  As of September 2022, the FDA has fully authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The FDA has provided emergency use authorization for the Novavax and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) vaccines.

Updated Bivalent Booster: The bivalent COVID-19 vaccines protect us against two different strains of COVID-19. The only COVID-19 booster vaccines approved by the FDA (as of September 13, 2022) are the Pfizer-BioNTech (age 12+) and Moderna (age 18+) bivalent vaccines.

Staying up to date with the COVID-19 vaccination will protect you and others against the virus

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a highly infectious virus called SARS-CoV-2. Sometimes cases of COVID-19 can be mild, but others can be more severe and even deadly. This is especially true for older adults or people with chronic health conditions. One in 100 older Americans have died from COVID-19 disease. 75% of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States have been among adults 65 years or older. 

You are up to date with the COVID-19 vaccine if you have completed a primary series of COVID-19 shots and received the bivalent booster shot recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Staying up to date with the COVID-19 vaccine has many benefits:

  •  It will lower your risk of getting sick if you are exposed to the coronavirus.
    • Even if you are up to date with the vaccine, it is still possible to get COVID-19. However, data from real-world use of COVID-19 vaccines shows that vaccination substantially lowers the risk of becoming seriously ill if you do get infected.
  • It helps protect the people you are around, especially people with a higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. This includes older people and people with chronic, underlying conditions.

People who are immunocompromised or take medicine that affects the immune system are at higher risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. It is especially important for immunocompromised people to stay up to date on their vaccines.

CDC Recommendations for Staying Up-to-Date with COVID-19 Vaccines

FDA Approved Vaccine Shots for Older Adults (65+)

Vaccine Primary Series Bivalent Boosters
Pfizer-BioNTech 2 shots, 3 weeks apart

1 shot, at least 2 months after your last primary series shot or any other booster shots you received. 

Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

Moderna 2 shots, 4 weeks apart

1 shot, at least 2 months after your last primary series shot or any other booster shots you received. 

Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

Novavax 2 shots, 3 weeks apart

1 shot, at least 2 months after your last primary series shot or any other booster shots you received. 

Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

Johnson & Johnson/Janssen*
  • 1 shot of J&J/Janssen vaccine

 

  • 1 booster shot of either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech at least two months after first shot of J&J/Janssen

1 shot, at least 2 months after your last primary series shot or any other booster shots you received. 

Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

*In most cases, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax vaccines are recommended over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

FDA Approved Vaccine Shots for Immunocompromised Older Adults (65+)

Vaccine Primary Series Bivalent Boosters
Pfizer-BioNTech

 3 shots

  • 2nd shot given 3 weeks after 1st shot
  • 3rd shot given at least 4 weeks after 2nd shot

1 shot, at least 2 months after your last primary series shot or last booster

Must be Pfizer-BioNTech

Moderna

3 shots

  • 2nd shot given 4 weeks after 1st shot
  • 3rd shot given at least 4 weeks after 2nd shot

1 shot, at least 2 months after your last primary series shot or any other booster shots you received. 

Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

Novavax 2 shots, 3 weeks apart

1 shot, at least 2 months after your last primary series shot or any other booster shots you received. 

Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

Johnson & Johnson/Janssen*

2 shots, 4 weeks apart

  • 2nd shot should be Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

1 shot, at least 2 months after your last primary series shot or any other booster shots you received. 

Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna

*In most cases, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax vaccines are recommended over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Vaccine Safety

Safety has been key in developing and approving COVID-19 vaccines. There were many steps taken to make sure the COVID-19 vaccines were safe before they were made available to the public.

  • First, clinical trials were carefully designed and controlled to find out how safe and effective the vaccines are. Tens of thousands of people participated in the clinical trials.
  • After the clinical trials proved the vaccines were safe and effective, then the FDA and independent expert advisory boards reviewed the data to make sure they were correct.
  • Then, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) at the CDC reviewed all safety data before recommending any COVID-19 vaccine for use.
  • Finally, after all these steps were completed, the FDA provided full authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The FDA provided an emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) and Novavax vaccines.

Talk to your Primary Care Clinician or Vaccine Provider

The FDA fact sheets for the Pfizer-BioNTechModerna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax vaccines have more information about the benefits and risks of each vaccine.  We recommend that you discuss the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated with your primary care clinician or vaccine provider before getting the shots.

Tell your vaccination provider about all your medical conditions, including if you:

  • Have any allergies
  • Have a fever
  • Have a bleeding disorder or take blood-thinning drugs
  • Are immunocompromised or take medicine that affects your immune system
  • Have received another COVID-19 vaccine

They will discuss any other factors you need to know before receiving a COVID-19 vaccine based on your unique circumstances.

How to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

FDA-approved vaccines are available at no cost to you:

  • If you have Medicare, you will not have to pay to get vaccinated.
  • Medicaid and private health insurance plans cover all vaccine costs.
  • If you are uninsured you can get free vaccines. 

Vaccines are available at many locations:

  • Most drug stores
  • Community health centers
  • State or local health departments

Find a COVID-19 vaccine location near you:

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider
  • Call 1-800-232-0233
  • Text your zip code to 438829 or visit vaccines.gov

Last Updated September 2022