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3rd vaccine shots rolling out next month

Who is eligible, where to get them, and will these shots ever end? 11Alive answers your questions.

ATLANTA — Vaccinated Americans...get ready to roll up your sleeve again. Starting next month, the U.S. will be offering COVID -19 booster shots to all who have received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. 

The third shot will be offered starting September 20 and will be administered after receiving the second dose.

So, who is considered eligible? Dr. Sujatha Reddy says the first boosters will go to the people who were part of the first access groups.

"Our elderly and in long-term care facilities and healthcare providers, if you recall, we got ours in December or January, so we're at that 8-month mark now," she explained.

And, why would people need a third shot in the first place? Georgia Tech Biochemistry Professor MG Finn says that's when data shows vaccine immunity starts to drop.

"It gives you another wake-up call as an immune system; it says time to make more," Finn said.

So, what about people who received a Johnson and Johnson vaccine? Dr. Reddy says they could be next, but there's less information about J&J because fewer people received that vaccine.

"And that one started giving vaccines later, so there's just not enough data available, but I think in the next several weeks, or two months, we're going to have data on Johnson and Johnson studies," Reddy said.

Another common question: Can you mix brands? For example, if you received Pfizer before, can you get Moderna now? Both Dr. Reddy and Dr. Finn say no.

"It's best to stick with the brand you first got. If you got two Moderna, get a third Moderna, two Pfizer, get a third Pfizer," Reddy said.

"Get the vaccine that you got originally only because the testing has been done for safety in that mode," Finn added.

And finally, will these shots ever end? The experts say probably not. 

"It may turn out that we have to get a booster shot every year for a while," said Finn.

"We need to learn to live with it; that's the best way to look at it," said Reddy.

We reached out to DPH in Georgia, and they say the boosters will be available at many of the same places that carry the first shots, like pharmacies. They say these boosters will be free for the foreseeable future.