Learn more about our FREE COVID-19 Patient Support Program for chronic illness patients and their loved ones.

Ilustration of doctor giving patient vaccine
Credit: Tatiana Ayazo

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently made an important change to its COVID-19 vaccine recommendations. Under this guidance, people ages 12 years and older who are immunocompromised should get a fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose as a booster at least four months after the fourth dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series (Pfizer and Moderna). 

The booster shot is intended “to enhance or restore protection against COVID-19 which may have decreased over time,” according to the CDC. You can read more about the fifth shot here. 

The recommendation for the fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose comes as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have been on the rise across the U.S. This is largely due to the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which now make up to 80 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. With the spread of COVID-19 cases, it is as important as ever to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccine doses. 

In our latest poll, the Global Healthy Living Foundation’s COVID-19 Patient Support Program aimed to gain insight into our community’s experience receiving or planning to get this extra layer of protection.  

Of the 1,492 respondents (93 percent reported they are immunocompromised), the majority (96 percent) had the two-dose mRNA vaccines for the original series.  

Here are some other key learning and insights from the poll. 

While 78 percent got a fourth COVID-19 vaccine, only 25 percent got a fifth shot

As part of the poll, we asked if respondents had received a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 78 percent who had the original mRNA series said yes. When asked about a fifth dose, 75 percent said no, they have not received the fifth dose. 

For those who had the Johnson and Johnson vaccine for their original series, 80 percent received a booster shot (second dose). When asked about plans for an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine once recommended: 

  • 67% said yes 
  • 15% said no 
  • 18% said I’m not sure yet 

For those who got the fifth shot, they reported no difficulties in getting it

When the fourth shot was initially recommended, many immunocompromised were tasked with explaining their eligibility to pharmacists, and some were even turned away from the vaccination site. In this poll, we sought to learn if this was happening again with the fifth shot. We asked patients if they had any difficulties when trying to get the fourth shot. Participants were able to select all that apply:  

  • 77% said no difficulties 
  • 3% said I did not initially know where to go for a fifth dose 
  • 2% said my health care provider initially advised me not to get an additional vaccine dose 

Some are waiting for the variant-specific booster

For those who reported not having received a fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose, we wanted to learn more about this decision. The most common reason was that people would rather receive a booster that is made for a recent variant (31 percent). This was highlighted in the free response section of the poll as people wrote:  

  • “Anxious for a new vaccine that will target the new variations.”
  • “Are they effective with the new Omicron variant?”
  • “Does the 5th shot cover the variants?”
  • “Don’t know if it’s worth getting with the new vaccine coming out in the fall. I could use some guidance on this.” 
  • “I am concerned that if I get the 5th now, I might not be eligible in October, plus the new variants seem to overwhelm the current vaccine antibodies.” 
graph of how many patients took fifth dose of COVID vaccine

Other reasons for not getting a fifth shot included:  

  • 20% said it’s too soon for me to get a fifth dose 
  • 9% said I plan to and have an appointment for it 
  • 5% said my health care provider advised me not to get an additional dose for now 
  • 3% said I was turned away at the vaccination site 
  • 2% said there aren’t available appointments 
  • 2% said I’m nervous about the side effects 
  • 1% said I don’t want to get a fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose 

Many are unaware of the recommendation for immunocompromised people to get a fifth shot

In a free response section where patients could elaborate on their answers, many wrote that they didn’t know, or pharmacists in their area didn’t know that a fifth shot is available to those who are immunocompromised. Here are some examples of what our respondents are saying:  

  • “The pharmacist had no idea of the CDCs recommendation.” 
  • “Although the CDC approved the shot no one in my area was aware.” 
  • “I sense few people are aware that a fifth dose has been recommended. I watch the news pretty closely and this email is the first I’ve heard of it.”
  • “I asked, but was told 4 is all there is. So, I wasn’t aware.”  

But for the most part, respondents who got the fifth shot reported being grateful for having this extra layer of protection available in the U.S. As one person wrote, “Glad to receive it, and will happily take all boosters available. The fifth was the easiest yet.” Another said: “I feel comforted and better protected because of it.” 

The Global Healthy Living Foundation is committed to providing ongoing education about COVID-19 vaccines for the chronic illness and immunocompromised community.  

To stay informed about the latest COVID-19 vaccine news for people who are immunocompromised, take immunosuppressant medications, or have autoimmune conditions, follow all of our COVID-19 vaccine coverage here. 

Get Free Coronavirus Support for Chronic Illness Patients

Join the Global Healthy Living Foundation’s free COVID-19 Support Program for chronic illness patients and their families. We will be providing updated information, community support, and other resources tailored specifically to your health and safety. 

About the Patient Support Program Quick Poll

Members of our program have underlying health issues – such as inflammatory arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and more – that may increase their risk for COVID-19 complications. They are interested in understanding the best ways to stay safe during the pandemic and to be part of a community of people with similar concerns, questions, and fears.  

We regularly poll members, who live in the U.S. as well as around the globe, about a variety of topics, including how the pandemic is affecting their lifestyle, mental health, chronic disease management, medication adherence, and more.  

We use this information to inform the educational resources we provide and to inform other stakeholders – such as public health experts, policymakers, advocacy groups, health care professionals, and pharmaceutical companies – about chronic illness patients’ needs and concerns. You can participate in ongoing poll by joining the support program here. 

COVID-19 Vaccines for People who are Moderately or Severely Immunocompromised. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/immuno.html.  

The White House. Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Outlines Strategy to Manage BA.5. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/07/12/fact-sheet-biden-administration-outlines-strategy-to-manage-ba-5/#:~:text=Today%2C%20the%20White%20House%20COVID,against%20and%20treat%20COVID%2D19. 

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