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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 1, 2022

Getting up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccine

By Chief Warrant Officer 4 Allyson E.T. Conroy, MyCG Staff

As January 2022 comes to a close, we find ourselves officially beginning the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that we have vaccines to help prevent serious illness if you contract COVID-19. The better news is that more than 73% of the US population aged 18 and above are considered “fully vaccinated.” A little more than a third of that number have also received a booster vaccine dose and are considered up-to-date on their vaccination status. 

What is the difference between being fully vaccinated and up-to-date on vaccination status?

The Coast Guard currently only recognizes two vaccination statuses; fully vaccinated and unvaccinated. In accordance with the Coast Guard’s vaccine mandate, service members are required to be fully vaccinated. According to the Defense Health Agency, the following terms are identified as: 

  • Fully vaccinated: A person is considered fully vaccinated with vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 infection two weeks after receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) or two weeks after receipt of a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • Unvaccinated: Service members who have not received the two- or one-dose series as described above are considered unvaccinated.
  • Up to date: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends that people remain “up to date” with their vaccines, which includes one additional doses for those who are immunocompromised or two booster doses at regular time points. Since early December 2021, everyone 18 years and older in the United States is eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot.
  • CDC recommended quarantine and isolation requirements are based on being up-to-date.
  • Coast Guard quarantine and isolation guidance references CDC guidance, but is NOT based on being up-to-date.  
  • Service members are strongly encouraged to be up to date on COVID-19 vaccine, but being “up-to-date” is not a DoD or Coast Guard mandate requirement 

“We are not through this COVID-19 pandemic, therefore we need to maintain our diligence with respect to vaccination status,” said Capt. John Iskander, the Coast Guard’s Chief of Preventive Medicine and Population Health. “While fully vaccinated still means that you have received your primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, being up-to-date means that you have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose once you are eligible.”

Iskander goes on to point out that data indicates only 20-21% of Coast Guard members have received their booster. Though boosters are not currently mandated, everyone is highly encouraged to receive a booster shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies show that once vaccinated against COVID-19, “protection against the virus and the ability to prevent infection with variants may decrease over time.”

Boosters increase the strength of your antibody response. When the virus mutates, a boost in vaccine makes it more likely that your antibodies can protect you against the omicron variant. 

“Being fully up-to-date on vaccinations, including boosters, more fully protects you from becoming seriously ill if you contract the COVID-19 virus,” Iskander says. 

Current CDC Booster Recommendations: 

Boosters, while recommended by the CDC for multiple populations, are still under an emergency use authorization (EUA). So, who is recommended to receive a booster shot, and when?

  • As announced Jan. 5, the CDC now recommends booster shots at five months after the completion of the primary series of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those aged 12 and older.
  • CDC now recommends booster shots at five months after the completion of the primary series of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for those aged 18 and older.
  • Announced Jan. 4, for some immunocompromised children aged 5-11 years old, CDC now recommends an additional dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to complete the primary series – a total of three doses.

What to expect:

If you meet the requirements as stated above, you’re now ready for your booster. Be sure to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record card or other proof of vaccination to your booster shot appointment so your provider can fill in the information about your booster dose. If you did not receive a card at your first appointment, contact the vaccination site or your Coast Guard clinic where you received your first shot or your state health department to find out how you can get a card or other proof of vaccination.

You may experience side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. These are normal signs that your body is building protection against COVID-19. Some people experience mild side effects, some experience multiple side effects to include the following: 

  • Pain, redness, swelling, or soreness at the injection site. 

Throughout your body you may also experience: 

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea

If you have any further questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine or the booster, you are encouraged to talk with your health care provider. 

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CDC article: Stay Up to Date with Your Vaccines
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