Covid-19 booster jab: How to book one and who is eligible for a third vaccination?
From early in the vaccine rollout, health officials have warned that some people more vulnerable to Covid-19 may need to book a booster jab.
While both the Pfizer vaccine and the Oxford vaccine are thought to be up to 96% effective against hospitalisation with the Delta variant, according to ONS data, there’s no doubt that hospitalisation rates are dramatically rising across the country.
The government hopes that by offering people the chance to book a booster jab, hospitals will be able to handle the pressure of incoming winter infections.
How to book booster jabs
The NHS will offer those a booster jab via invite to those eligible for one next week.
It’s currently not possible to book a booster jab unless the NHS invites you for one.
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 late September, this will include those who were vaccinated early in Phase 1 of the initial vaccine rollout.
This means that the first round of booster jabs will likely be available to book later in September 2021.
Much like the initial vaccine rollout, the NHS will invite people to book their third jab online. GP surgeries, local pharmacies and other vaccination centres will then administer the jabs as soon as operationally possible.
The push for people to take up another jab comes as concerns are rising about the possibility of having to go back into lockdown this year. With a spike in infections inevitable over the winter period, ministers in England and Scotland have refused to rule out the chance of a circuit breaker lockdown.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News, “It is right that experts are looking at what is happening and come up with their best guess of where things might go based on certain assumptions.
“We have to listen to them but eventually make what we think is the right decision. There is no risk-free decision but I think what we have announced in terms of this plan, is well thought through.”
Who will be eligible for a Covid booster jab?
The priority order is similar to the initial vaccine rollout, too. However, this time it’s happening in two stages:
- Stage 1: All adults over 70 years old, care home residents, immunocompromised people, and frontline health and social care workers.
- Stage 2: People aged 50 years old and over, those aged 16 to 49 years old with underlying health conditions that make them more at risk from Covid-19, adult carers, adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
The booster programme will involve around 30 million people across the country.
The JCVI have not laid out plans to triple vaccinate healthy adults under 50 years old yet. However, this may be a possibility in the future.
They have just approved plans for 12 to 15 year olds to get the Covid vaccine before the end of the year. It follows concerns by health ministers that an inevitable rise in infections over winter will impact schooling again.
Will asthmatics get the Covid booster vaccine?
Yes, people with asthma on the free flu jab list will be offered the booster jab.
This means that only those with asthma considered severe enough to be a risk from flu viruses will be eligible to receive a third jab. It does not include everyone with asthma.
If you have asthma and are offered a free flu jab every year, according to Asthma UK, you will be eligible to receive the booster shot in the autumn.
Why do we need booster jabs?
Public Health England (PHE)’s recent early data suggests that protection offered by the vaccine to older individuals decreases gradually over time.
While there hasn’t been enough time to know what the levels of protection will be 12 months after vaccination, the JCVI have opted to take precautionary measures to try and maintain a high level of protection in vulnerable populations this winter.
Plus, the possibility of breakthrough Covid-19 infections and seasonal flu puts those with underlying health conditions and other risks in a precarious position.
The JCVI said, “The timing and magnitude of potential influenza and SARS-CoV2 (Covid-19) infection waves for winter 2021 to 2022 are currently unknown.”
It’s for a similar reason that the JCVI are considering whether all young child should get the vaccine. While those 12 to 15 years old are now eligible for one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the JCVI has not approved the jab for anyone younger than this.
Which vaccine is in the booster jab programme?
The NHS will administer the Pfizer vaccine to those eligible for their third dose.
This is regardless of which vaccine someone had for their first and second doses. There’s no strong evidence to suggest that mixing vaccines has a negative effect on protection. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest that mixing vaccines actually increases the level of protection for the individual.
The decision to use the Pfizer vaccine comes from data from the Cov-Boost trial, which indicated that people tolerated this jab well as a third dose and it provided a stronger booster response.
However, if the Pfizer vaccine is not available then the Moderna vaccine may be used. But only a half-dose as some studies have shown that it was effective as a booster – with a few side-effects. If neither of these vaccines are suitable, the Oxford vaccine will be available.
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