Covid: How do I book my booster vaccine? When can I receive my third jab?

All adults will be offered a Covid booster by the end of the year. Credit: PA

All adults in England will be offered a Covid booster jab by the end of the year as the highly transmissible Omicron variant fuels a huge rise in infections.

The ramping up of the booster vaccination programme is in reaction to the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK. A record 78,610 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were reported in one day in the UK on Wednesday 15 December, the highest daily total since the pandemic began.

The variant is now thought to be the dominant strain in London, and one person is known to have died with Omicron.

Boris Johnson warned people against thinking the new variant will not make them seriously ill, but said the Covid booster was the best way to protect against the mutation and urged the nation to "get boosted now".

So when and how can you book your third dose?

Who can get a Covid-19 booster jab?

The prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that all eligible adults will be offered a Covid-19 booster jab by the end of the year in England, in a bid to protect against the Omicron variant.

This means everyone over the age of 18 can get a third dose of a vaccine, so long as they have had a second dose at least three months ago.

The booster vaccination programme had previously been open to over-40s, but the concern over the emergence of the new variant has prompted a rapid extension of the programme.

How can I book my third jab?

The NHS booking system was opened to over-18s from Wednesday, but immediately after the prime minister's announcement the website experienced technical difficulties.

The website appeared to be working on Monday morning, but people are placed in a virtual queue to book their booster jab.

You can also get your booster dose at a walk-in Covid-19 vaccination site if you had your second dose at least three months ago but many people are experiencing waits of up to three hours.

People trying to book their booster face long wait times.

When can I book?

You can book your booster on the NHS website but the site has struggled under unprecedented demand. People trying to book their jab online are being put in a queue, with no waiting time given.

If you are registered with a doctor, you may also get a message from your GP with a link to book an appointment.

Alternatively, you can try walk-in centres, but be prepared to queue.

What is happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Scotland was the first UK nation to give a booster or third dose of Covid-19 vaccine to more than half of its entire adult population.

A total of 2,250,118 extra doses had been given to over-18s as of December 14.

This is the equivalent of 50.7% of this age group, according to Public Health Scotland.

In Wales, all adults will be offered a booster vaccination aim is to offer by the end of December, with appointments to be scheduled into the new year.

Northern Ireland’s booster rollout will further accelerate from the week beginning 20 December when vaccination centres open to the over-18s.

Long queues for booster jabs at St Thomas' hospital in London. Credit: PA

Listen to our coronavirus podcast:

Will I have the same vaccine for my booster?

Not necessarily. Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will primarily be offered as a booster dose irrespective of the vaccine used for your first two shots.

This means your booster dose may be different from the vaccines you had for your first and second doses.

While most people will be offered a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, some will receive a Moderna vaccine while a few may be offered a booster dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they cannot have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, the NHS said.

What has changed with the prime minister's announcement?

Previously the government had set a target of offering all eligible adults over the age of 18 a booster shot by the end of January.

However, because of the Omicron variant this has now changed, and the aim is to offer all adults a booster shot by the end of the year.

How will the increase in boosters be achieved?

Mr Johnson has acknowledged that it will require an “extraordinary effort” by the NHS with hundreds more vaccination sites, mobile units and pop-ups due to open over the coming week.

He said that since Sunday night, more than 20,000 new volunteers had signed up to help with the booster effort as stewards, taking the total number to almost 33,000. There currently almost 3,000 vaccine sites across the country, staffed by over 90,000 volunteers.

Some 600 personnel from across the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force have been made available to NHS England, delivering jabs in small teams across the country, and another 51 will help with planning, while more than 100 are assisting in Scotland, the MoD said.

What is known about how effective two jabs are in comparison to two jabs plus a booster?

Analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has found that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provide “much lower” levels of protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron compared with Delta.

But the UKHSA said a booster dose gives around 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection with Omicron.