Vaccine boosters: How to get it, who is eligible, and how many people have had the jab

An NHS worker receives a Covid booster vaccine in August.
A health care worker receives a booster shot in the Autumn/Winter drive. Credit: PA

Millions of people have received a Covid booster vaccine as the UK heads into the winter months - but vaccinators are facing speed-bumps in the race to get extra shots in arms.

To speed up the rollout, Boris Johnson has called for all of those eligible to proactively organise an appointment, rather than simply wait to be invited.

The latest NHS figures show more than 3 million double-jabbed people in England have had their third shot in the four weeks after the rollout was launched.

However the booster shot campaign is facing hurdles as bookings open to more people, and vaccinators are already busy with the annual flu jab drive.

So, why do we need a booster jab?

The NHS is urging people aged over 50 to get both their flu jabs and booster shots for the best chance of avoiding getting sick.

Experts fear the vaccine's efficacy can wane over time, leaving the most vulnerable people at risk of contracting a severe case of Covid.

More than one-third of all double-jabbed over-80s in England have received a booster shot. Credit: PA

The worldwide spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has led to concerns the virus will circulate rapidly in winter as people spend increasing amounts of time indoors.

The health service launched a publicity campaign in recent weeks urging people to get both the flu jab and Covid booster shot ahead of the winter.

Ministers hope the booster shot will help prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed in the colder months when hospitals have historically tended to come under pressure.

Covid vaccine booster: How will it work and who will get it first?

What is the Covid booster campaign?

The NHS in England officially launched its coronavirus booster campaign on Thursday September 16, which will see millions of eligible people offered a third Covid vaccine.

The campaign was launched after data from Public Health England (PHE) suggested that the protection provided by vaccines against severe Covid decreases gradually over time.

A third jab, therefore, will guard against any waning in its efficacy months after the second dose.

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Who will get the Covid booster first?

Residents in care homes, people aged 80 and over and frontline health and social care workers are among the people who will receive the Covid booster first.

The programme will be rolled out to the same priority groups as the first phase of the vaccination programme.

Covid-19 booster vaccine order of priority:

1. Resident in care homes for older adults and their carers

2. People over the age of 80 and frontline health and social care workers

3. People aged 75 to 79

4. People aged 70-74 and those deemed to be “clinically extremely vulnerable”

5. People aged 65 to 69

6. People aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and death - deemed as "clinically vulnerable"

7. People aged 60 to 64

8. People aged 55 to 59

9. People aged 50 to 54

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How long do I need to wait after my last vaccine dose?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises the booster vaccine dose is offered at least six months after the second dose was given.

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How do I book the booster jab and how will I be notified?

Everyone eligible is free to arrange an appointment - rather than waiting to be contacted.

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Which vaccine will it be?

People will either receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, regardless of which vaccine they have already had for their first two doses.

However, the JCVI has advised a "preference" for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, regardless of which vaccine brand someone received for their first two doses.

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Will the rollout apply across the UK?

The third jab will be offered to people in all nations in the UK.

Wales began its own Covid vaccine booster campaign in September and Scotland and Northern Ireland followed shortly after.

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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said of the two-jab vaccine programme: “Insufficient time has passed to know what levels of protection might be expected six to 12 months after the primary course.

“Taking a precautionary position, the JCVI considers that on balance it is preferable to maintain a high level of protection in vulnerable adults throughout winter.”

The government also hopes to avoid any more lockdowns after a punishing year of restrictions.

Downing Street has refused to rule out any more lockdowns being brought in if the UK's position worsens over winter.

However former Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said he hoped the booster vaccines will buy the UK enough protection against another wave of severe illness and death to avoid any more lockdowns.

The autumn booster programme has been rolled out across Wales following JCVI guidance.

Who is eligible for a booster shot?

NHS England says those in line for a booster jab include everyone aged 50 and over, frontline health and social care workers and those aged between 16-49 with an underlying health condition putting them at greater risk from the virus.

The elderly and clinically vulnerable are being prioritised for the shots.

This means those who had their first shot around six months ago will be at the top of the queue.

The priority list follows the same order as the queue for first doses:

Credit: PA Images

How to book a booster jab

The bookings system is now open to everyone eligible, even if they have not yet received an invite from the NHS.

Originally NHS England said people will be contacted as they become eligible, via a call or text from a GP-led site or via the vaccines National Booking Service.

The rollout was being timed to ensure people will be called forward to book around six months after they had their second dose.

You can book appointments here or by phoning 119.

Which vaccine will the booster shot be?

It may not be the same type you received for your first and second dose.

The JCVI has indicated a "preference" for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

However a single half-shot of Moderna may be given.

The JCVI added: "Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered, for example due to allergies, the (Oxford) AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received it previously."

Should I get a flu jab too?

While the NHS is campaigning for people to seek both a booster shot and the annual flu jab, the health service is stressing GPs don't have to give both at the same time if they don't have the stocks.

In order to ensure everyone gets the vaccines they need this winter, people are encouraged to accept each shot when they are offered - even if it is in separate appointments.

GP Sarah Jarvis told ITV News: "If you're offered them both together, by all means, have it, one in each arm, there is now good evidence, the JCVI have confirmed it's perfectly safe.

"But if you're offered them separately, please do take it up, don't delay having one, in order to have the other."

Why is the booster jab rollout slowing?

A number of factors appear to be hindering booster programme pace, following the UK's bumper start to the original nationwide jabs rollout.

Some care home residents are still waiting for jabs despite being atop the priority queue, the chairman of the National Care Association (NCA) warned.

NCA head Nadra Ahmed told the BBC some care homes were able to get the flu jab but found there were not enough booster shots available to get both at once.

Some care providers were waiting weeks after being contacted to receive the vaccines, and others had heard nothing back.

“There is a concern because obviously the six-month gap is getting bigger and bigger so the efficacy of the vaccine is reducing," Ms Ahmed said.

“We have infection rates that are rising so, for both staff and residents, there is this fear."

A volunteer in the Covid 'booster' jab study Credit: ITV News Meridian

According to the i newspaper, some booster rollout delays are believed to be connected to both a sense of lesser urgency and by logistics.

People who had already been double-jabbed during the peak of the crisis were booking booster times that suited their schedule.

This has been speculated to have caused bottlenecks as pharmacies and GPs also try to fit in flu jab appointments.

Labour criticised the pace of the booster rollout.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth is calling for his opposite, Sajid Javid, to commit to 500,000 jabs a day.

Mr Ashworth told the Commons on Thursday he feared the NHS was coming under unsustainable pressure.

He added: "We have ambulances backed up outside hospitals, patients waiting hours upon hours in A&E, cancer operations cancelled and NHS staff exhausted. Has there ever been in the history of the NHS a more complacent attitude from a secretary of state as we head into winter?”

Are other countries offering booster jabs?

Several countries' booster jabs drive have proven controversial.

Some leading political and scientific figures have accused the UK of hoarding precious vaccines while under-developed countries struggle to meet demand.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries to direct stockpiled jabs to developing countries to ensure global security against the virus.

The WHO suggested the UK should be donating more jab supplies internationally rather than concentrating its rollout on booster shots and vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds.

Will we need a booster jab every year?

The JCVI has said the recommendations for booster shots apply to the current stage of the pandemic, and the group is not suggesting the rollout will be repeated in the long term.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has said the recommendations are "bespoke" and apply to this winter only for now.

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