COVID-19 autumn booster FAQs

Who can get the COVID-19 Autumn booster?
In July, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that a further dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should be offered to:

  • residents of care homes for older adults
  • front line health and social care workers
  • all those aged 50 years or above
  • people aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group (including pregnant women) or who are household contacts of people with a weakened immune system, and
  • people aged 16 to 49 years who are carers

Can I get the flu and COVID-19 booster vaccine at the same time?

COVID-19 vaccines and the flu vaccine can be given on the same day and for people that are eligible for both, there may be opportunities to have both together.

We would encourage you to get your vaccinations as soon as possible and get fully protected rather than waiting as it may not always be possible to get them together.

Can I have my flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster in the same appointment?

Yes, if you are eligible to receive these two vaccines, you may be offered both in the same appointment.

It is safe to receive both vaccines in the same appointment. But it’s important that you do not wait to try and schedule both vaccinations at the same time as this may not be possible and could delay your protection over winter.

Please take up the offer of each vaccine when you are invited to, even if they are on different dates.

Why do I need an autumn booster?

More than 94% of England’s population have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – saving lives, helping tens of thousands to stay out of hospital, and enabling us to return to lives we knew before the pandemic began.

However, the virus is still with us and is still making people very ill. The JCVI has stated that winter will remain the season when the threat from COVID-19 is greatest for individuals and communities. Viruses, like COVID-19, spread much more easily in winter when we socialise indoors, so it’s important that everyone eligible tops up their protection with an autumn booster.

The aim is to protect the whole population and protect those at greatest risk from the virus against severe COVID-19 disease over winter.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines have saved more than 100,000 lives and significantly reduced hospitalisations from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccination programme allows us to live with this virus without restrictions on our freedoms.

With both flu and COVID-19 expected to be circulating this winter, it’s important to boost your
immunity and help protect yourself and others.

Can I still catch COVID-19 after having the vaccine?

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few days for your body to build up some protection from the booster.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is 100% guarantee of not catching the virus – some people may still get COVID-19 despite getting vaccinated but this should be less severe.

Has the COVID-19 booster been given to people like me?

As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.

Each of the vaccines are tested on tens of thousands of people across the world. They are tested on both men and women, on people from different ethnic backgrounds, and of all age groups.

Latest data from UKHSA show that six months after receiving a second dose, two doses provide between 55% and 70% protection from needing to be hospitalised for Covid-19. This remains around 70% six months after receiving the booster.

When will I be contacted, and how?

The NHS will prioritise protection of those at greatest risk – starting with people in the older age groups or who are clinically more vulnerable, and then inviting people in the other eligible groups.

You will receive a letter, email or text from the NHS when it is your turn to come forward.

What vaccine will I be offered for my booster?

On 15 August 2022, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) granted regulatory approval for the Modern abivalent COVID-19 vaccine.

After reviewing data on booster responses from different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines, the UK, following JCVI advice, will deploy vaccines which are targeted at both Omicron and the original strain of COVID-19.

What are COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccines which target two different variants of COVID-19 are called bivalent vaccines. Bivalent vaccines broaden immunity and therefore potentially improve protection against variants of COVID-19.

All vaccines used in the UK to date have been primarily targeted at the original strain of COVID-19 and have remained effective at preventing severe disease against subsequent variants.

How do we know the COVID-19 bivalent vaccines are safe?

All vaccines used in the UK must be authorised by our independent medicines’ regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Each COVID-19 vaccine candidate is assessed by teams of scientists and clinicians on a case-by-case basis and is only authorised once it has met robust standards of effectiveness, safety and quality set by MHRA.

The MHRA has reviewed the available safety and efficacy data supporting Moderna’s bivalent vaccine and provided its authorisation.

Will there be any side effects from the vaccine?

Common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, and include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around a day or two following the vaccination
  • feeling tired
  • headache
  • general aches, or mild flu like symptoms

You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better. Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.

Although a fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home. Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week.

If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned,
you can call NHS 111.

Are there any serious side effects to having the COVID-19 vaccine?

Worldwide, there have been very rare cases of inflammation of the heart called myocarditis or pericarditis reported after some vaccinations.

These cases have been seen mostly in younger men within several days after vaccination. Most of these people recovered and felt better following rest and simple treatments.

You should seek medical advice urgently if, after vaccination, you experience:
• chest pain
• shortness of breath
• feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart

Can I have the booster if I feel unwell?

If you are feeling unwell, for instance if you have a fever or have recently had a fever, it is better to leave a seven day interval between the start of your symptoms began to when you have your vaccine. You should not attend a vaccine appointment if you are self-isolating or waiting for a COVID-19 test.

If you are unwell on the day of vaccination for whatever reason, it may be appropriate to postpone vaccination until you have recovered.

Those people with long term illness should present for vaccination when invited. If you are uncertain, please attend the vaccination service where healthcare professionals will be available who can advise you.

I’ve only just had my first or second COVID-19 vaccine, can I have the autumn booster jab?

No, the JCVI advises that the booster vaccine should be offered no earlier than three
months after completion of the primary vaccine course.

I haven’t yet had the COVID-19 vaccination, can I still get my first jabs?

Everyone who is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second COVID-19 vaccination
will still be able to get vaccinated, even when the COVID-19 autumn booster programme

I have had COVID, do I need to wait before having my autumn booster?

If you’ve recently had a confirmed COVID-19 infection, you should ideally wait before getting any dose of the vaccine.

You should ideally wait:

  • 4 weeks (28 days) if you’re aged 18 years old or over
  • 12 weeks (84 days) if you’re aged 5 to 17 years
  • 4 weeks (28 days) if you’re aged 12 to 17 years old and at high-risk from COVID-19

This starts from the date your symptoms started or from the date of a positive test, whichever
was earlier. If you had some symptoms but you are not sure if you had COVID-19, you
should still attend for vaccination once your symptoms are better and you can discuss this
with a healthcare professional when you attend.

Do I need to receive the same type of vaccine or booster as my previous ones?

No, all COVID-19 vaccines authorised for use in the deployment programme are highly effective and provide a strong booster response.

When you attend your appointment, the NHS will offer you a safe, effective vaccine.

How and when do I access my booster if I am a housebound individual?

If you’re currently housebound and you think you’re eligible for a home vaccination, but you have not been contacted by the NHS to arrange this, contact your GP practice for support.

If the vaccine and booster jabs offer high levels of protection, why do I keep having to have more?

For the 2022 autumn booster programme, the primary objective is to boost immunity in those at higher risk from severe COVID-19 illness so that those people have optimal protection against severe COVID-19.

In particular, the vaccine will help avoid those people being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19 over winter 2022/23. Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 mortality has disproportionately affected those in older age groups, residents in care homes for older adults, and those with certain underlying health conditions, particularly those who are severely immunosuppressed.

Following vaccination, these same factors continue to identify those people who are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19.