Does the Booster Mean Life Is Back to Normal?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 25, 2022

A booster shot is an additional dose of vaccine you get after your original shot or shots start to wear off. The CDC recommends getting the COVID-19 booster shot at least 5 months after your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Or 2 months after Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

A booster helps keep your body’s defenses strong, even against variants. So what does that mean for everyday life? Can you go back to your pre-pandemic norms?

What a Booster Does

A booster contains the same ingredients and dose as your other vaccine shots did. The booster for a particular vaccine contains the same ingredients as its primary shots did. It’s called a “booster” for a reason -- it boosts your immunity after your initial shots start to weaken.

This gives you a leg up on severe complications if you do get COVID-19, lowering your risk of hospitalization and death. You’re about three times less likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 41 times less likely to die from it compared to someone who is unvaccinated.

But even though your chances of getting or giving the virus are much lower, they’re still not zero. So the more layers of protection you have, the better you safeguard your health and your community.

What’s Safe After a Booster?

While you may be well protected with a booster, others are still at risk. This includes people who aren’t vaccinated and people who are immunocompromised. Keeping up with public health safety measures -- even though you have the maximum doses of vaccine protection -- helps slow the spread of the virus.

You should continue to:

  • Wear a mask in public. (Not wearing one mask is OK if you’re outdoors and not in a big crowd.)
  • Distance yourself at least 6 feet from people you don’t live with.
  • Avoid crowded areas and places that don’t have good ventilation.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.

It’s always smart to steer clear of sick people when possible and stay home any time you have respiratory symptoms.

Overcrowding in hospitals is one of the big reasons for continuing these practices. If COVID-19 cases are overwhelming the health care system, people with other conditions and medical crises can’t get seen as quickly as they need to.

The Future of COVID-19

Researchers say COVID-19 probably won’t go away completely. Instead it’s more likely to become endemic. An endemic disease is one that is always present in a certain population or area. For example, the flu is endemic in the U.S., while malaria is endemic to many tropical areas.

An endemic disease is also more predictable than a pandemic. Experts have some idea of when it will surge and what the ballpark number of infections will be. COVID-19 is still unpredictable, with spikes in cases after variants emerge. And endemic doesn’t mean “less infectious” or “less deadly.” It’s more stable in terms of numbers, but not necessarily less dangerous to public health.

Above all, the best course of action is better safe than sorry. Keep on masking, distancing, and watching for symptoms.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: praetorianphoto / Getty Images


CDC: “COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots,” “Rates of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths by Vaccination Status,” “How to Protect Yourself & Others.”

University of Missouri Health Care: “COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need to Know About Booster Shots.”

Johns Hopkins: “Booster Shots, Third Doses and Additional Doses for COVID-19 Vaccines — What You Need to Know.”

UCLA Health: “Is it safe to return to a normal routine after COVID-19 vaccine?”

Public Health Madison and Dane County: “Is COVID Endemic Yet?”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “COVID-19 Booster Shots: Eligibility, Safety, and More You Should Know.”

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