Is the Pfizer Booster the Same As the Original COVID Vaccine?

Pfizer vaccine booster shots are now available for certain vulnerable adults in the U.S., but only if they were initially inoculated with the same vaccine.

People aged 65 years and older are now eligible for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as long as they received their second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago.

Also eligible for the booster are people aged between 18 and 64 years old who have underlying medical conditions, residents of long-term care facilities aged 18 and older, and adults whose jobs mean they're at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission.

These include healthcare workers, police, firefighters, congregate care workers, education staff, food and agriculture workers, grocery store workers, and those in manufacturing, the U.S. Postal Service, public transit, and the correctional system.

As with people aged 65 years old and above, people who fall into these groups only qualify for a Pfizer booster shot if they were initially immunized with the Pfizer vaccine, and received their second dose of the vaccine at least six months ago.

Anybody who falls into any of the categories described above who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not eligible for a Pfizer vaccine booster shot.

However, it is possible that booster shots will be recommended to Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients in the future.

"We also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine," a joint statement issued by public health and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on August 18 said.

"Administration of the J&J vaccine did not begin in the U.S. until March 2021, and we expect more data on J&J in the next few weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well."

President Joe Biden received a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the White House on Monday, having completed his first two doses of the vaccine before being sworn into the Oval Office in January.

On August 23, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine became the first COVID-19 vaccine to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in people aged 16 or older, and it is now being marketed under the brand name Comirnaty.

Pfizer has said that Comirnaty and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine "have the same formulation and can be used interchangeably."

President Joe Biden receives Pfizer booster shot
President Joe Biden receives a third shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as a booster on the White House campus September 27, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Vulnerable adults who fit certain criteria are now eligible for a booster shot. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images