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COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters and Additional Doses for People With Parkinson's: Current Guidelines

Posted on October 06, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Alison Channon
Article written by
Victoria Menard

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for adults over 65 and other high-risk individuals.
  • People who are immunocompromised may be eligible to receive a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines now.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after a second dose for the following groups:

  • People 65 and older
  • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • People ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that place them at high risk for severe COVID-19

The CDC recommendations state that people ages 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions and people ages 18 to 64 who are at risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their work or living arrangements “may receive a booster shot” of the Pfizer vaccine “based on their individual benefits and risks.”

The CDC’s Sept. 24 recommendations align with the Pfizer booster shot authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released on Sept. 22.

President Joe Biden confirmed in a speech on Sept. 24 that eligible individuals who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in March or earlier can receive a booster dose of the vaccine now, free of charge.

The CDC and FDA did not release recommendations about the Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Moderna announced that a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine improved protection against the delta variant in a press release on Sept. 1. Johnson & Johnson released a statement on Sept. 21 sharing that data from a phase 3 study demonstrated the benefits of a booster vaccine dose.

Both companies have submitted data on booster shots to the FDA for review.

Boosters vs. Additional Doses for Immunocompromised People

A COVID-19 vaccine booster is administered when someone developed adequate immunity after the initial vaccine doses, but that immunity has decreased over time.

However, an additional dose of the vaccine may be recommended for those who did not develop an adequate immune response after the two-dose vaccination series.

The FDA amended the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines’ emergency use authorizations on Aug. 12 to allow a third vaccine dose for certain immunocompromised individuals at least 28 days after their second vaccination with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The new recommendations from the FDA and CDC do not change this eligibility. There is not yet guidance from the FDA or CDC on additional doses for immunocompromised people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Individuals defined as immunocompromised include people in cancer treatment, people who received a stem cell transplant in the last two years, people who are organ donor recipients and taking immunosuppressive drugs, people taking high-dose steroids or other immunosuppressive drugs, as well as those with certain other health conditions.

The CDC did not release a comprehensive list of every condition or treatment that would make a person immunocompromised. Instead, the agency recommends individuals consult their doctors to determine if a third dose is appropriate for them.

Third Doses for People With Parkinson’s Disease

Having Parkinson’s disease does not necessarily mean someone is immunocompromised, nor does it put someone at an increased risk of developing COVID-19. In fact, one scientific review published this year in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease noted that Parkinson’s does not appear to be a direct risk factor for COVID-19.

However, other risk factors — including being an adult older than 50, having chronic lung disease, and smoking — are known to increase the likelihood of developing severe illness or complications from COVID-19.

If you believe you are immunocompromised or have another health condition that may put you at risk of developing severe COVID-19, ask your doctor whether you might benefit from an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Learn More

In April, MyParkinsonsTeam sat down with Dr. Sarah O’Shea, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with Parkinson’s disease, to learn more about Parkinson’s disease and COVID-19 vaccines.

In that conversation, Dr. O’Shea said, “It's very important that individuals living with Parkinson's disease receive the vaccine, given the risks associated with contracting the virus. The global movement disorder community agrees on this recommendation, but please do talk to your doctor first, as of course there are always exceptions.”

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Alison Channon has nearly a decade of experience writing about chronic health conditions, mental health, and women's health. Learn more about her here.
Victoria Menard is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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