Omicron: When can I have a booster jab and how do I book one?

Article By: BBC

Booster numbers have hit record levels across the UK, as part of steps to limit the impact of the Omicron variant. The measures also include approval for a low-dose vaccine to be offered to vulnerable primary school children.

Which children are being vaccinated?
A low-dose version of the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for five to 11-year-olds with health conditions that put them at greater risk from catching Covid.

Primary school children who live with clinically vulnerable adults should also be offered a jab, government vaccine advisers said.

It is not yet clear when children would get the doses - and they first need to be approved by ministers across the UK.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation also recommended the normal booster dose should be offered to children aged:

16 and 17
12 to 15 if they are in an at-risk group or live with someone who is immunosuppressed
12 to 15 who have a severely weakened immune system, who should get four doses
All children aged 12 and over are being offered two doses of the Pfizer jab. They can have a second dose 12 weeks after the first.

If a 16 or 17-year-old tests positive for Covid, they should wait 12 weeks before being vaccinated, because of an extremely small risk of heart inflammation - four weeks (28 days) for high-risk groups.

If a 12 to 15-year old tests positive they need to wait 12 weeks before getting their second dose.

When can I have a booster?
In England boosters are available to over-18s - as long as it's three months since their second dose.

Boosters can be booked two months after a second dose. Some walk-in appointments may be available - depending on where you live.

Scotland also aims to offer booster appointments to all eligible adults before the end of the year. As in England, boosters can be booked online.

Wales also hopes to hit the end of December target. People should wait to be invited for their booster, with older and higher-risk people being prioritised.

Northern Ireland's booster plan is also being accelerated. People aged 18 to 29 are able to go to walk-in hubs, and can now make booster appointments.

How will the target be achieved?
In England, some other medical appointments are being postponed.

Across the UK, opening hours at vaccination centres are being extended and more volunteers are being recruited.

The requirement to wait 15 minutes in the vaccination centre after a jab is also being scrapped, to allow more people to be seen.

Why do I need a booster?
Early studies from UK researchers suggest a booster vaccine - on top of the first two jabs - will provide 80-85% protection against Omicron (compared with 97% against Delta).

More antibodies are developed thanks to the booster, giving the body a deeper, broader and stronger defence against the virus than before.

It makes it harder for Omicron's mutations to infect the body, although current vaccines are still not a perfect match.

Why do boosters work if two doses struggle?
Do vaccines work against Omicron?
What else do I need to know about the booster?
Your booster will be a single dose of either Pfizer or Moderna - regardless of which vaccine you received for your first two jabs.

If you have tested positive for Covid recently, you should wait four weeks (28 days) from the date of the test before having your booster.

You shouldn't have the booster if you have a severe illness or high fever. However, patient information from Pfizer and Moderna says a mild fever or a cold are not reasons to delay.

The vaccines do not give you an infection, and they will not cause you to test positive on a lateral flow or PCR test.

Is the Covid vaccine compulsory?
Not in the UK, although a number of European countries have tightened restrictions for the unvaccinated.

However, all front-ine NHS staff in England (with some exceptions) must be fully vaccinated by 1 April.

Care home staff in England must already be vaccinated (unless exempt).

Across the UK, Covid passports are required to enter some venues.

Mandatory jabs: Three reasons for and against
What if I haven't had my first or second vaccine?
You can still book your first or second jab. You need to wait eight weeks between the first and second.

In particular, the government wants unvaccinated pregnant women to come forward.

In England, bookings for over-12s can be made online, by calling 119, or visiting a walk-in clinic
In Scotland, over-16s can register for their first or second vaccine online, or by calling 0800 030 8013
In Wales, adults can contact their local health board
In Northern Ireland, you can book online or call 0300 200 7813; walk-in centres are open to older teenagers
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.

And a very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction after the Pfizer vaccine.

You should discuss any existing serious allergies with your healthcare professional before being vaccinated.


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