Where can I get my Covid booster jab? And why do I need it?

People have been going to get their booster jab in parts of the Midlands today Credit: ITV News Central

Concerns over the Omicron variant of Covid mean the booster programme has been extended in England, with all over 18s to be offered a third does of the vaccine by the end of the year.

The government has said it aims is to vaccinate a million people per day, after the Prime Minister announced earlier this week that a "tidal wave of Omicron" could cause "very many deaths".

Where can I get boosted?

Eligible people can get their jab by booking a vaccination appointment online to attend a vaccination centre or pharmacy, without an appointment at a walk-in vaccination site or, when they've been contacted, through an appointment with their GP practice.

People queuing up for their booster in Leicestershire. Credit: ITV News Central/BPM

Who can have the booster jab?

From Wednesday December 15, 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.

Over-30s and those considered most at risk from coronavirus - and who have had a 2nd dose of the vaccine at least 3 months ago - are already eligible. They include:

  • People who live and work in care homes

  • Frontline health and social care workers

  • People aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19

  • People aged 16 and over who are a main carer for someone at high risk from Covid-19

  • People aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

The government said it aims is to vaccinate a million people per day Credit: BPM

I'm already vaccinated - why do I need a booster jab?

Having a Covid booster vaccine helps improve protection from the first two doses, giving longer-term protection from serious illness.

The current vaccines prompt the body to make antibodies to protect against the coronavirus before it infects cells and causes serious illness.

However, research shows that these antibodies can decrease over time and 2 doses of the vaccine may not be enough to provide immunity over a prolonged period of time.

Government scientists say new variants such as Omicron have made the need for boosters even more urgent.

Mutations in the virus mean its spike protein looks different to the original strain which was first discovered in Wuhan, which all of the current vaccines were made to target.

This means antibodies from vaccination and previous infection are less likely to successfully intercept new variants and therefore more antibodies are needed to compensate for them not 'matching' as well as they previously did.

Dr Duncan Robertson from Loughborough University explains the importance of booster jabs

Dr Duncan Robertson, from Loughborough University, said: "I think people are pretty sensible and they see lots of signals coming from the government but they really think about what they can do to protect themselves."

He adds: "The thing they can do is get the booster vaccine and the vaccine has sort of got further away from the virus so it is very important to get the booster because it gives you significant protection against disease."

Dr Emily Lawson, director of the NHS covid-19 vaccination programme said: "The data is clear – getting boosted is our best hope of protecting people against the new variant so please book your slot online and guarantee your vital jab."

Plans to accelerate the programme include opening extra pop-up vaccination centres and extending opening hours to offer more jabs to more people.

Many sites have been asked to operate 12 hours a day, seven days a week wherever possible and in every community, there should be slots available at least 16 hours a day.

Following the extension of the vaccination programme, the NHS has warned it may not be able to cope with the surge in demand and is calling for thousands more volunteers and paid vaccinators.