When will I get my booster Covid jab? More and more people are asking this question every day as winter flu season is just around the corner.
Both the NHS and the government have said that a booster dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna jab will help improve the protection from the virus offered by the first two doses of the vaccine. This is especially vital now, they’ve said, as seasonal winter flu and coronavirus is a lethal combination that sees the risk of death more than double. We’re far from being out of the woods with Covid-19 and the booster jab helps give longer-term protection against serious illness from the virus. It’s for similar reasons that there’s a huge push for people to get the flu jab this year too.
But not everyone is eligible for a third shot of the vaccine, so this is what you need to know about when you’re likely to get your booster Covid jab in 2021.
When will I get my booster Covid jab?
You’ll only be able to get your booster Covid-19 jab at least six months after your second dose of the vaccine.
Much like why health officials warned against getting your second Covid vaccine early, having a booster shot prior to the sixth month mark may not be useful to your immune system.
There is some evidence to suggest that vaccine effectiveness tends to wane at the sixth month mark, meaning another dose before this point wouldn’t be as effective as a dose after six months have passed. For instance there are two new studies, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which found that protection from the Pfizer vaccine falters within a few months of the second dose. But importantly, protection from the vaccine against severe disease, hospitalisation and death remained strong.
It points to the idea that while at-risk people are still protected from the serious consequences of catching the virus, a third dose would help to improve protection even further.
Similarly, a study published in The Lancet on the AstraZeneca vaccine and early strains of the virus found that leaving less than six weeks between the first and the second dose offered a 55.1% efficacy against the virus symptoms, including mild ones. While a longer gap, of even just a few weeks, increased the efficacy to 59.9% and at 12 weeks, this rose to 81.3%.
Who is eligible for a third Covid-19 vaccine?
Currently, only those who the NHS invite for a third dose are eligible for a booster shot.
The health service has an online booking service that’s now live and available to use for those who have been contacted by the NHS and are:
- Over 50-years-old
- Over 16-years-old and have an underlying health condition that puts them more at risk from Covid-19.
It’s currently not possible to book a booster jab unless the NHS personally invites you as not everyone is eligible for a third dose.
Under the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) guidelines laid out for the booster programme, anyone having a third jab must have had their second one at least six months beforehand. As of early October, this includes those who were vaccinated in the early and middle stages of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout last year.
This push for people to take up another jab if they’re eligible comes as concerns are rising about Covid-19 cases during the winter months. With viral infections always more common as the weather gets colder and people move indoors, some ministers have refused to rule out the chance of going back into lockdown this year. Instead, England’s health officials have put a “Plan B” in place, which includes compulsory face coverings, asking people to work from home and introducing vaccine passports.
Can I get the booster vaccine if I have a cold?
No, you should not go to your vaccine appointment if you have a cold. If you feel very unwell, you should self-isolate instead and take a PCR test to confirm that you just have a cold and not coronavirus, according to guidance from the UK Health Security Agency.
But if you have a mild illness, you should still go to your vaccine appointment.
It’s vital to rebook your appointment after you’ve recovered if you’re forced to cancel it though. This includes if you’ve had coronavirus as it’s still entirely possible to get Covid-19 twice.
Which vaccine will they use?
Most people will have the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine, the NHS says.
Some people might have a booster dose from the Oxford vaccine but this will only be in cases where they cannot have the other two jabs.
While this might mean that the booster dose is different from the vaccine you had the first two times, that’s completely fine.