COVID booster shots for everyone 65 and older and those with medical conditions who received their second Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months ago are available at more than a thousand dispensing locations across New Jersey, but demand for the boosters continues to lag.

Some Garden State residents have expressed concerns about possible side effects from the shot, but infectious disease expert Dr. Meg Fisher, of the state Health Department, said when Pfizer studied what happened to people who got their booster vaccines, “in general they had about the same type of side effects, and in fact often they were milder after that third dose."

She pointed out “that could be because it’s been six months since your last dose, so we might expect that your reactions would be a little less.”

But Dr. Fisher said there is no rhyme or reason to possible side effects.

She said even if you felt awful after the first or second Pfizer vaccine, that doesn’t necessarily mean the same scenario will play out when you get a booster.

“It’s totally unpredictable, I know that’s a frustrating thing to hear, but just because you had a reaction to dose two doesn’t mean you’ll have the same severe reaction to dose three,” she said.

She also stressed if you did not have any reaction to either dose of the Pfizer vaccine and you don’t have any symptoms after you get your booster shot, it doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working.

“Some people just don’t have those achy symptoms, it’s just their own body works,” she said.

Dr. Fisher said some people have asked if they can get a lab test to check for antibody production after getting a COVID vaccine, but she would not recommend it.

“That’s not a good idea in general because the laboratory tests don’t necessarily measure which antibody you would make for the vaccine, they measure antibodies you would make when you get COVID disease,” she said.

She stressed reaction to the vaccine does not correlate to the efficacy of the vaccine.

Dr. Fisher said trying to figure out how you will react to the booster shot is really just a guess.

“Some people will have a more robust reaction with more pain, more fever, more myalgia, but in any case, it is clearly better than getting the COVID disease,” she said.

Side effects tend to last for 12 to 24 hours.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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