Is It Ethical To Get a COVID-19 Booster?

As some countries struggle to vaccinate citizens, you may wonder if getting a booster is OK

COVID-19 October 1, 2021
COVID booster vaccine vials

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for some people who completed their two-dose series of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago. Here are the specifics:

  • People 65 and older and residents in long-term care settings should get a booster.
  • People ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions should get a booster.
  • Those ages 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster.
  • Those ages 18 to 64 who are at an increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of where they work or live may receive a booster.

If you had the Pfizer vaccine and qualify for a booster, talk to your provider about getting a booster shot, or visit your local health department or a pharmacy that offers a booster. (At this time, no decision has been made on boosters for those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.)

Two perspectives

Given that lower-income countries around the world are still struggling to vaccinate their populations, you may wonder if getting a booster is the right thing to do. Clayton Thomason, JD, MDiv, chairperson of the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values at Rush, says the issue needs to be viewed from two perspectives: what we do as a society and what we do individually.

“Large-scale booster campaigns can actually amplify the degree of inequality in vaccine distribution globally,” Thomason says. “But those decisions can really only be made by the federal government. And once the allocation decisions have been made, an individual’s decision not to be vaccinated doesn’t translate to another dose being released to someone across the globe.”

Thomason says getting fully vaccinated — including your boosters if you qualify — is the right thing to do because it protects others from getting COVID-19. But if you are healthy, he urges you to “wait your turn” and allow health care workers, immunocompromised people and other vulnerable populations to get their shots first.

How you can help

If vaccine equity concerns you, there are ways to help. Thomason suggests donating to an initiative that provides vaccines to lower-income countries. You can also contact politicians and advocate for more equitable vaccine allocations.

To improve vaccination rates here at home, you can share your positive experience of getting vaccinated with a friend or family member who has not yet received a shot. “That’s something that each of us can do,” he says.

For the most up-to-date information about the vaccine and booster shots, please visit rush.edu/vaccine.

Related Stories