Individuals should weigh their own personal health and risk levels in deciding when to receive a second booster of the COVID-19 vaccine, UT Southwestern infectious diseases experts advise.

Patients who are immunocompromised due to a chronic condition or medications that curb the immune system should get a second booster shot when they are eligible. But if you’re healthy, have received your first booster, your risk of catching the virus is low, and if you’re planning to travel during the summer, it’s reasonable to wait until closer to your travel time to get the second booster, said Reuben Arasaratnam, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine.

“What the booster does is re-awaken the immune system so that it is specifically poised to fight COVID-19,” he said.

In late May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strengthened its recommendations to say people 50 or older should get a second booster shot if at least four months have passed since their first booster. Evidence has shown that antibodies generated from the first booster begin to wane after about four months. Others included in the guidance are people 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.

Pearlie Chong, M.D., Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, said the side effects of a second booster would be similar to what an individual experienced with their first booster shot. “You might get chills or fatigue, but it would be transient, and the benefits outweigh the risks.”

Dr. Chong said that individuals considering a second booster shouldn’t feel discouraged upon hearing that antibodies will wane after several months.

“The protective value of the booster continues beyond that time because our immune system has multiple types of protection. And some parts of our immune system, such as B-cells and T-cells, are not easily measurable, but they are continuing to protect,” Dr. Chong said. “A single booster shot continues to provide high levels of protection against severe disease.”

Drs. Arasaratnam and Chong shared their perspectives on a recent episode of “What to Know,” a video series produced by UT Southwestern to provide information on medical topics for the community.

Dr. Chong is a Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 26 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,900 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits a year.

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