COVID-19 booster vaccine FAQs


What is the COVID-19 booster programme?

The COVID-19 booster programme is the rollout of an additional vaccine dose to people who have previously received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure continued protection for those most at risk from COVID-19.


How effective are the NHS vaccines against the Omicron variant?

The vaccines offered by the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Deployment Programme have been shown to substantially increase antibody levels when offered as a booster dose.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe. JCVI will continue to review its recommendations and consider further evidence to ensure that health benefits are maximised alongside the rapidly evolving data on the Omicron variant.

Following the uncertainty about the Omicron variant, it is more important than ever to take up the offer of the COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself and others, as well as reducing the risk of overwhelming the NHS at what is already a busy time of year.


Who is eligible for the COVID-19 booster vaccine?

You can check who is currently eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine on the NHS website here.


What is the spring booster programme?

People aged 75 years and older, residents in care homes for older people, and those with weakened immune systems will be offered a spring booster of COVID-19 vaccine. Read more here.


I am severely immunosuppressed. When will I get my booster?

JCVI have advised that individuals who are severely immunosuppressed get an additional third dose of vaccine as part of their primary course of immunisation. This offer is separate to the booster programme. More information is available here: JCVI issues advice on third dose vaccination for severely immunosuppressed - GOV.UK 


Is there anyone that shouldn’t have the booster vaccine?

There are very few people in the eligible groups who should not have a booster.  If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine you should discuss this with your doctor. Check who is currently eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine on the NHS website here.


If I’m eligible when and where can I get my vaccination?

The JCVI advises that the booster vaccine dose should be offered no earlier than three months after having the second dose of the vaccination. Like your previous doses, the vaccine will be given in your upper arm.

People will be offered the vaccine through a range of services.

Eligible people can: 

Check who is currently eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine on the NHS website here.

Primary care teams will vaccinate care home staff and residents. Health and social care staff will be directed to book their appointments through employers.


What type of vaccine will the COVID-19 booster be? What if it’s different to the one I have had?

After reviewing data on booster responses from different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines, JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech (vaccine to be offered as the booster dose irrespective of which type of vaccine was used in the primary schedule). There is good evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is well tolerated as a booster dose and will provide a strong booster response.

Alternatively, individuals may be offered a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, which should be well tolerated and is also likely to provide a strong booster response. A half dose of Moderna vaccine is advised over a full dose due to the levels of reactogenicity (side effects) seen following boosting with a full dose in clinical trials.

Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered e.g. due to contraindication, vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received AstraZeneca vaccine in the primary course. More detail is available in the green book.


Will there be any side effects from the booster vaccine?

As with your previous dose the 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 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
  • 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 2 of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test. 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.

If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist.


Can you 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 completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.


I have recently had COVID-19. Can I get the booster?

If you've had a positive COVID-19 test, you need to wait before getting any dose of the vaccine. You can find details on how long you need to wait depending on your age range on the NHS website.


Can I have the booster if I haven’t completed the first vaccination course?

No, you need to finish the first course of your vaccination. All sites offering COVID-19 booster vaccines will also offer first and second doses. 


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

The COVID-19 booster 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.


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

Everyone that is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second COVID-19 vaccination will still be able to get vaccinated. This may be through a GP-led service or by booking through the NHS COVID-19 Vaccination national booking service.


Will people who have already had their booster jab now need to receive a further booster after three months?

The JCVI has not yet made a recommendation on this.


Can I get the booster if I am pregnant?

If you are pregnant and in one of the groups that the JCVI has recommended for the boosters, you are eligible to receive a booster, no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination. The NHS will contact you when it is your turn.


Does the NHS have enough vaccine supply to deliver these extra jabs?

The NHS has sufficient vaccine supply to meet demand and is working to make sure that all vaccination sites have the supply they need to deliver vaccines to the increased numbers of eligible people.


Will more staff be needed to deliver these extra jabs?

We are asking all vaccination services to continue to do everything they can to ensure maximum uptake and rollout of the vaccination programme. This includes longer opening hours, transport support, roving and street teams, to ensure that people are vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible.


How will the NHS manage this extra volume of activity heading into winter? What will change to release the capacity needed?

The NHS is scaling up sites already vaccinating, and working with local communities and partner organisations to maximise our workforce. More sites and booking appointments are becoming available every day.

Hospital hubs will continue to offer the vaccine to their own staff and will extend to primary care and social care workers as well as patients, especially those who are immunosuppressed. We are also encouraging more community pharmacies and primary care sites to increase capacity at a local level.