Doctor injecting vaccine into senior patient’s arm, Cologne, NRW, Germany
Credit: Westend61 / Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages older adults to get  COVID-19 booster shots this spring, even if they received the vaccine in the fall.

A vaccine advisory panel on Wednesday adopted the updated guidance, which the CDC subsequently endorsed. The officials said that getting a second booster was safe so long as the second one was at least four months after people got the first one.

“Today’s recommendation allows older adults to receive an additional dose of this season’s COVID-19 vaccine to provide added protection,” Mandy Cohen, MD, CDC director, said in a statement. “Most COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations last year were among people 65 years and older. An additional vaccine dose can provide added protection that may have decreased over time for those at highest risk.”

Camille Kotton, MD, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, told The New York Times that she was “impressed” with data that supported the need for an additional dose for those over the age of 65.

“Given the risk of severe, even life-threatening, disease, I would encourage those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised to take the opportunity for another dose,” Kotton said. 

The vaccine is 54% effective against infection with the most common COVID variant, JN.1. 

Older adults may still have some protection from their shot in the fall, which builds on the immunity of earlier shots or infections they may have had, experts said. But immunity from the virus wanes faster in seniors compared to younger adults.

“Adults 65 years and older are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with more than half of COVID-19 hospitalizations during October 2023 to December 2023 occurring in this age group,” the CDC noted, adding that people who are immunocompromised are already eligible for additional doses of COVID vaccines.

In October and November, adults who got their fall booster shot made up 4% of hospitalizations from the virus. People who received a booster in 2022 and didn’t update their shot during this past fall made up 25% of those hospitalized, the Times reported.