Booster vaccination Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 booster vaccine?
What is the COVID-19 booster programme?
Booster vaccines are an extra dose of a vaccine that is given to ‘boost’ the protection against a virus or disease in people who have already been vaccinated. The COVID-19 booster programme is providing an additional vaccine dose to the people most at risk from COVID-19 to ensure continued high levels of protection over the winter.
Why is the COVID-19 booster programme needed?
Like some other vaccines, protection levels from the Covid vaccines will reduce over time. Having reviewed the current data, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that COVID-19 boosters are offered to the people who are most likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 and those who care for them in order to provide maximum protection during the winter months. The boosters will help extend the protection people got from their first two doses and reduce the risk of them needing to be admitted to hospital due to COVID-19 this winter.
The flu vaccination programme is also now running which protects people from serious complications from getting flu, so we would encourage people who are eligible for a COVID-19 booster to also get their flu vaccination. More information on the flu vaccination is at www.nhs.uk/flujab
How do I get my COVID-19 booster?
The NHS is contacting people when it is their turn for a booster but people can also book an appointment using the NHS National Booking Service as soon as they are eligible.
Can I have my flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster at the same time?
Yes, the evidence from the clinical trials showed that it is safe and effective to have these at the same time. However, it may not always be possible to get them together so you should have each vaccination as soon as it is offered rather than waiting to try to get them at the same time.
Which vaccines will be used for COVID-19 boosters?
In line with the advice from the JCVI, people will be given either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for their booster. This is because the evidence from the clinical trials on different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines showed that this type of vaccine (called an mRNA or ‘messenger’ vaccine gave the best results as a booster, no matter which type of vaccine people had before.
If you are not able to have either of these vaccines due to a severe allergy to any of their ingredients or another medical reason, it may be possible for you to have the AstraZeneca vaccine instead if you had this before but you will need to discuss this with a health professional first.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t have the booster vaccine?
There are very few people in the eligible groups who should not have a booster. If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine you should discuss this with your doctor.
Why aren’t most younger people being offered a booster?
The benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered at a later time when more information is available. In general, younger, healthy individuals are expected to generate stronger immune responses from vaccination compared to older individuals.
Will there be any side effects from the booster vaccine?
As with your previous dose the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, and include:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
- feeling tired
- general aches, or mild flu like symptoms
You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better. Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.
Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111.
Can I have the booster if I haven’t completed the first vaccination course?
No, you need to finish the first course of your vaccination.
I haven’t yet had the COVID-19 vaccination, can I still get my first jabs?
Yes, you can still get your first or second vaccination if you haven’t had yours yet. You can use the online booking service on the NHS website or by calling 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.
Can I get the booster if I am pregnant?
If you are pregnant and in one of the groups that the JCVI has recommended for the boosters, you are eligible to receive a booster, no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination. The NHS will contact you when it is your turn.
I am severely immunosuppressed. When will I get my booster?
The JCVI has recommended that people who were severely immunosuppressed at the time of their first or second COVID-19 vaccination should be offered a third dose of the vaccine. This is separate to the booster programme and is an extra ‘top-up’ dose in response to evidence showing that they may not have responded as well to the vaccine as others and will therefore have lower levels of protection against COVID-19. It includes people with leukaemia and advanced HIV and people who have had recent organ transplants.
Consultants have been asked to identify eligible patients and recommend when the best time would be for them to have their third dose. Patients are being contacted either by their consultant or GP to arrange their vaccination.
Can you still catch COVID-19 after having a booster?
The COVID-19 booster will increase your protection levels and reduce the chance of you suffering serious effects from the disease. It may take a few days for your body to build up some protection from the booster. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, but this should be less severe.