HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With Texans able to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster, local health leaders are working to clear the confusion of who can get one.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE BOOSTER AND THIRD DOSE?
Houston's top medical expert, Dr. David Persse told ABC13 there's a lot of confusion between the third COVID-19 vaccine dose, and the booster shot. The booster is the third shot, but it's different from the "third dose."
The booster is only for people who got the Pfizer vaccine. It's given six months after your second dose. It's recommended for people over the age of 65, adults working in long-term care settings, and those 50-64 with underlying conditions. The third dose is for people who got the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, and because of immune issues may not have worked properly.
The additional dose can be given 28 days after the second shot. Persse said there are plenty of places you can make an appointment, including the city's website.
Once one is made, don't worry about your original COVID vaccine card.
"When you got your first vaccine card it was written, designed for two doses because that's what the expectation was for that point," Persse explained. "You don't need to bring that with you. If you have it, it's helpful, but you'll get another card when you leave, after you get the third dose."
CAN I GET A BOOSTER FOR THE MODERNA OR JOHNSON AND JOHNSON VACCINE?
Right now, the FDA has only approved the booster shot for the Pfizer vaccine. Persse said approval for the others could come in the coming weeks.
If you want a booster, health experts said not enough data is known to mix doses, which means if you didn't receive the Pfizer shot you'll have to wait.
There are some other eligibility requirements, but health experts said you don't have to provide proof.
"When you come to us, we're not going to quiz you or double-check," Persse explained. "We'll take your word, but we do recommend you check with your doctor if you're someone who should get the booster dose."
Even if you're not qualified for the booster, Persse explained you shouldn't be worried. He said the vaccines have proven to be extremely effective, and although it may wane over time, it provides significant protection against hospitalizations and deaths.
IS IT SAFE TO GET THE FLU SHOT AT THE SAME TIME AS THE COVID VACCINE BOOSTER?
Local health experts said it's fine to get both the flu shot, and COVID vaccine booster at the same time. In fact, it might be the way to go.
"You can get your flu shot at the same time," Persse said. "There are two schools of thought about that because when you get the flu shot you end up with a sore arm, a little bit achy, maybe a couple of degree temperature increase. Some people are getting both shots at the same time. It's perfectly safe to do so, and they're getting through those symptoms all at once."
Persse said if you don't want to get it at the same time, it's fine to wait a couple of weeks between shots.
WITH BOOSTERS, WILL WE HAVE A NORMAL HOLIDAY SEASON?
Some health experts are offering caution ahead of the holiday season, even with boosters. According to the CDC, COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are on the decline across the country.
State data shows the numbers are on the decline in Texas as well. Despite this, when it comes to upcoming holiday gatherings, local leaders suggest you get vaccinated before you make plans, and still consider treating it like last year because breakthrough cases could occur.
"There's generally somebody at that family gathering who's either elderly, or has a chronic medical problem that would put them at high risk should they become infected," Persse said. "This is your family. Let's do everything we can to protect our family, and be as smart as we can and take these preventive measures and if having Thanksgiving outdoors, assuming the weather is working with us, that's a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving."
If you do celebrate indoors, the CDC recommends opening the door or putting a window fan in place to increase circulation.