People aged 75 years and older, residents in care homes for older people, and those aged 5 years and over with a weakened immune system will be offered a booster of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine this spring.
Spring booster eligibility
COVID-19 is more serious in older people and in people with certain underlying health conditions. For these reasons, people aged 75 years and over, those in care homes, and those aged 5 years and over with a weakened immune system are being offered a spring booster of COVID-19 vaccine.
Timing of the spring booster
You should be offered an appointment between April and June, with those at highest risk being called in first. You will be invited to have your booster around 6 months from your last dose but you can have it from 3 months.
If you are turning 75 years of age between April and June, you will be called for vaccination during the campaign; you do not have to wait for your birthday.
Vaccines in use this spring
You will be given a booster dose of a vaccine made by Pfizer, Moderna or Sanofi and approved in the UK. These vaccines have been updated since the original vaccines and target different COVID-19 variants. For a very small number of people another vaccine product may be advised by your doctor.
These updated vaccines boost protection well, and give slightly higher levels of antibody against the more recent strains of COVID-19 (Omicron) than the vaccines you would have received previously.
As we cannot predict which variants of COVID-19 will be circulating this spring and summer, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has concluded that all of these vaccines can be used and that no one should delay vaccination to receive a different vaccine.
The Sanofi vaccine contains an adjuvant (a chemical used to improve the immune response to the virus). This vaccine will only be offered to older people, who may respond less well to vaccines. The adjuvant in the COVID-19 vaccine is similar to the one used in the flu vaccine which is routinely given to over 65 year olds.
Who cannot take up the offer of a spring booster
There are very few people who should not have this booster. If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine you should discuss this with your doctor.
Common side effects
As with your previous dose, the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines, including the updated vaccines being used this spring 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
- general aches or mild flu-like symptoms
You can rest and take paracetamol following the dose advice in the packaging, to help you feel better.
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 or text or phone 18001 111.
Serious side effects
Cases of inflammation of the heart (called myocarditis or pericarditis) have been reported very rarely after both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. These cases have been seen mostly in younger men and within several days of vaccination. Most of the people affected have felt better and recovered quickly 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
If you had a serious side effect after a previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist.
If you are unwell on the day of your booster vaccination
If you are unwell, wait until you have recovered to have your vaccine. You should not attend an appointment if you have a fever or think you might be infectious to others.
You may still catch COVID-19 after having the booster
The COVID-19 booster will reduce the chance of you becoming severely unwell from COVID-19 this spring and summer. It may take a few days for your body to build up some extra protection from the booster. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but any infection should be less severe.
Catching up with missed doses
If you have not yet had either of your first 2 doses of the vaccine (or a third dose for those with a weakened immune system) you should have them as soon as possible.
If you are eligible and you have missed an earlier booster, you should have a dose this spring to catch up. You will not need another dose during the summer.
Waiting after you have your vaccine
If you have a history of allergies, or if you had a reaction immediately after a previous dose, you may be advised to stay for 15 minutes after the vaccine. Please make sure you tell the vaccinator.