More than two million Covid booster jabs have now been given out in England, according to the NHS.
The booster is being offered to frontline medical staff, over-50s and the clinically vulnerable across the UK. Meanwhile, healthy children aged 12-15 are also being offered a single dose.
Who will get a booster?
Across the UK, booster jabs are being offered to:
- Frontline health and social care workers
- Older adults in residential care homes
- People aged 16-49 years old with underlying health conditions which put them at greater risk of severe Covid
- Adults who share a household with vulnerable people
The booster must be given at least six months after a second vaccination, and will typically be either Pfizer or Moderna.
NHS England says more than two million booster jabs have already been delivered, although some charities have criticised the rollout for vulnerable people with weak immune systems, which they say has gone “badly wrong”.
In Scotland, as at 12 October, 28,142 clinically vulnerable people considered “severely immunosuppressed” have received their booster.
Meanwhile more than 40 million people across the UK are being offered the flu jab this year, including – for the first time – all secondary school children up to the age of 16.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tan said it’s vital that people have a flu jab as well as the Covid booster.
Which children are being offered a Covid vaccine?
All 12 to 15-year-olds are being offered a single Pfizer Covid jab to help limit disruption to their education. Most will be given in school.
The rollout has already begun in England, Scotland and Wales, and is due to start shortly in Northern Ireland.
The UK’s chief medical offers said a second dose shouldn’t be considered before the spring term.
There is no vaccine currently approved for under-12s in the UK.
Why are infections still high when so many are vaccinated?
Almost four in five over-12s in the UK are now fully vaccinated, but daily cases are still rising.
Vaccines are designed to protect people against becoming seriously ill or dying from Covid.
According to Public Health England (PHE):
- Vaccines are 96% effective at preventing hospitalisation
- Covid deaths in the double-jabbed are four times lower than in the unvaccinated
But they’re less effective at stopping people getting infected by the virus or passing it on.
So even if everyone in the UK was double-vaccinated, Covid would still spread – but far fewer people would become seriously ill.
Effectiveness also depends on how well each vaccine works against individual variants.
PHE studies suggest two vaccine doses protect 80% of people against getting symptoms from the Delta variant. That’s lower than the Alpha variant (89%), first identified in Kent, because Delta, first identified in India, is more infectious.
After four or five months, another large study suggests you have the same amount of protection whether you had AstraZeneca or Pfizer.
Researchers believe the Moderna jab is similarly effective.
How do I get a vaccine?
In England, adults and those within three months of turning 18 can book their first or second jab online or by calling 119. They can also visit a walk-in clinic without an appointment. All 16 and 17-year-olds should contact their GP.
Frontline health or social care workers can book their booster jab online now, but other groups should wait to be contacted by the NHS.
In Scotland, over-16s can register to get their first or second vaccine on the NHS inform website or by calling 0800 030 8013. Over-12s can go to drop-in vaccination clinics. Invitations will be sent to those entitled to receive a booster.
Which vaccine will I get?
People who are under 40 or pregnant are being offered Pfizer or Moderna rather than Oxford-AstraZeneca, because of a possible connection with extremely rare cases of blood clots.
Under-18s are currently being offered Pfizer, although the Moderna vaccine has also been authorised for use in children in the UK.
Is vaccination compulsory?
It’s not compulsory, although the health secretary has said it’s “highly likely” that both Covid and flu jabs will be compulsory for all frontline NHS and care workers in England.
Being fully vaccinated is also a condition of entry for nightclubs and some other events in Scotland.
It also means you don’t have to self-isolate after visiting amber list countries or if a contact tests positive for Covid (as long as you test negative).
England’s chief midwife has also urged pregnant women to get the vaccine.
What about side effects?
The most common ones include a sore arm, headache, chills, fatigue and nausea.
They are part of the body’s normal immune response to vaccines and tend to resolve within a day or two.
There are extremely rare but occasionally fatal cases of people developing blood clots after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Separately, a very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.
You should discuss any existing serious allergies with your healthcare professional before being vaccinated.