Below are answers to a series of frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 booster programme.
- What is the COVID-19 booster programme?
- Why is the COVID-19 booster programme needed?
- Who is eligible for a booster jab?
- I’m eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine. Do I need to contact the NHS?
- How will I be invited for a booster jab?
- I am eligible for a booster jab – why haven’t I been invited yet?
- I am severely immunosuppressed. When will I get my booster?
- Is there anyone that shouldn’t have the booster vaccine?
- How will the booster jab be delivered?
- Which COVID-19 vaccine will I receive for my booster jab?
- Can you still catch COVID-19 after having the vaccine?
- I haven’t yet had the COVID-19 vaccination, can I still get my first jabs?
- Can I get the booster if I am pregnant?
The COVID-19 booster programme is the rollout of an additional vaccine dose to people who have previously received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure continued protection for those most at risk from COVID-19.
Why is the COVID-19 booster programme needed?
We want to provide the people that are most likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 and those who care for them with the best possible protection for this winter. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has reviewed available data and provided advice that COVID-19 boosters are first offered to the most vulnerable in order to provide maximum protection during the winter months.
The flu vaccination programme is now running which protects people from serious complications from getting flu, so we would also encourage people that 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
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said that for the 2021 COVID-19 vaccination programme, the following people should be offered a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the same order as the first part of the vaccination programme:
- those living in residential care homes for older adults
- all adults aged 50 years or over
- frontline health and social care workers
- all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 (as set out in the green book), and adult carers
- adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals
The JCVI advises that the booster vaccine dose should be offered no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination.
You do not need to contact the NHS to arrange your booster vaccine, the NHS will be in touch when you become eligible for the jab.
Once you are eligible (ie you are in priority groups 1-9 and it has been at least six months since your second jab), you will get a call or text from their local GP-led site to get the jab, or will be invited by the National Booking Service, which will start issuing invitations shortly.
Booster jabs are effective for topping up protection for people who have had both of their jabs from at the very least six months on after their second dose.
Some of those in the original nine priority groups will not be eligible for the top-up until the New Year.
The JCVI has advised that individual who are severely immunosuppressed get an additional third dose of vaccine as part of their primary course of immunisation. This offer is separate to the booster programme. More information is available here: JCVI issues advice on third dose vaccination for severely immunosuppressed - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
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.
The booster programme will be delivered through existing vaccination sites including pharmacies, hospital hubs, GP practices and vaccine centres.
People will be offered the vaccine through a range of services. Primary care teams will vaccinate care home staff and residents and are working to help ensure they are offered a vaccine by the beginning of November.
Health and social care staff will be directed to book their appointments through employers and members of the public will be invited to get their booster through a GP-led service and/or be contacted by the NHS to book through the national COVID-19 vaccination booking service to get their vaccination in a designated pharmacy, vaccination centre or GP-led service.
The JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the booster programme, regardless of which vaccine brand someone received for their primary doses. This follows data from the COV-BOOST trial that indicates the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is well tolerated as a third dose and provides a strong booster response.
Alternatively, a half dose of the Moderna vaccine may be offered. Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered, for example due to allergies, the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received it previously. More detail is available in the green book.
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
The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few days for your body to build up some protection from the booster.
The COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccine can be given on the same day and for people that are eligible for both, there may be opportunities to have both together. We would encourage you to get your vaccinations as soon as possible and get fully protected rather than waiting as it may not always be possible to get them together.
Everyone that is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second COVID-19 vaccination will still be able to get vaccinated, even when the COVID-19 booster programme begins. This may be through a GP-led service or by booking through the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination national booking service.
Everyone aged 18 and over can book their initial COVID-19 vaccination through the NHS booking service (call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week).
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.