A booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine helps improve the protection you have from your first 2 doses of the vaccine.
It helps give you longer-term protection against getting seriously ill from COVID-19.
Who can get a COVID-19 booster dose
Everyone aged 16 and over who had a 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 3 months ago (91 days) can get a booster dose.
Some children aged 12 to 15 are eligible for a booster dose if either:
- they live with someone who has a weakened immune system (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- they have a condition that means they're at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
Conditions that mean they may be at high risk are:
- a severe problem with the brain or nerves, such as cerebral palsy
- Down's syndrome
- severe or multiple learning disabilities (or they're on the learning disability register)
- a condition that means they're more likely to get infections (such as some genetic conditions or types of cancer)
If you had a 3rd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine because you have or had a weakened immune system, you can get a booster dose from 3 months after your 3rd dose.
Book or walk-in to get your vaccination:
- Appointments can be booked via the National Booking System or by calling 119.
- Walk-in to a vaccination clinics (no appointment required, limited vaccine availability).
If you have tested positive for COVID-19:
- People aged 18 and over should wait 28 days (1 month) from the date you had symptoms, or the date of the positive test if you did not have any symptoms, to have their Covid-19 vaccination
The 'booster' vaccination programme is separate to the recent recommendation of third doses for people with severely weakened immune systems - something that is already being rolled out.
What is the COVID-19 booster programme?
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
I am severely immunosuppressed. When will I get my booster?
JCVI have 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)
If I’m eligible when and where can I get my vaccination?
The NHS will let eligible people know to have their booster vaccine when it is their turn.
The JCVI advises that the booster vaccine dose should be offered no earlier than three months after having the second dose of the vaccination. Like your previous doses, the vaccine will be given in your upper arm.
People will be offered the vaccine through a range of services. Primary care teams will vaccinate care home staff and residents. 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.
Why aren’t most younger people being offered a booster?
As most younger adults will only have received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose in late summer or early autumn, 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 may be expected to generate stronger vaccine-induced immune responses from primary course vaccination compared to older individuals.
What type of vaccine will the COVID-19 booster be? What if it’s different to the one I have had?
After reviewing data on booster responses from different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines, JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech (vaccine to be offered as the booster dose irrespective of which type of vaccine was used in the primary schedule). There is good evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is well tolerated as a booster dose and will provide a strong booster response.
Alternatively, individuals may be offered a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, which should be well tolerated and is also likely to provide a strong booster response. A half dose of Moderna vaccine is advised over a full dose due to the levels of reactogenicity (side effects) seen following boosting with a full dose in clinical trials.
Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered e.g. due to contraindication, vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received AstraZeneca vaccine in the primary course. More detail is available in the green book
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.
If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist.
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.
Can I get the flu and COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same time?
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.
I haven’t yet had the COVID-19 vaccination, can I still get my first and second jabs?
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 16 and over can book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments online for an appointment at a vaccination centre or pharmacy.
Parents of young people aged 12 - 15 years old can book their COVID-19 vaccination appointment online for an appointment at a vaccination centre or pharmacy.
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 three months after completion of the first course of vaccination. The NHS will contact you when it is your turn.
A leaflet guide to booster vaccinations can be found here.
Further resources relating to booster vaccinations can also be found here.