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How people over the age of 18 will be offered a COVID-19 booster dose.

First published:
25 October 2021
Last updated:

Overview

Who will be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccination?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) advised, in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, from 29 November that COVID-19 vaccine booster vaccination eligibility would be expanded to include all adults over aged 18. 

Booster vaccinations are being be offered in order of descending age groups, with priority given to the vaccination of older adults and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group.

Offers of a booster dose should be given at a minimum of 3 months of completion of the primary course. This is an update from the previously advised 6 month interval.

Changes to the guidelines have been put in place to accelerate the programme, optimise individual protection ahead of a potential wave of infection and reduce the impact of the Omicron variant on the UK population

How to get my booster

Please wait to be invited, your health board will contact you when it’s your turn. Booster vaccinations are being be offered in order of descending age groups, with priority given to the vaccination of older adults and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group. Health boards are working their way through those eligible, in order, as quickly and as safely as they can.

Please do not contact your GP to ask about appointments.

Please take up your COVID-19 booster appointment when you receive it. There is some evidence that the immunity you gained from your previous vaccines reduces over time. 

Those who have already been given a booster appointment should attend on the date and time given.

Appointments for all others now eligible will be scheduled by their health board in line with the latest JCVI advice and in accordance with their age and clinical vulnerability.   

Timing of booster vaccine

Advice has now changed and you will be offered a booster vaccine at least 3 months after your second dose, rather than the previously advised 6 months.

Booster doses are being rolled out in the same order as the initial vaccination programme. This will maximise protection for those who are most vulnerable to serious infection first. If 3 months has passed since your second dose, it does not mean you are overdue your booster, it means that your health board will be in touch as soon as it is your turn.

Which vaccine will I be given?

The JCVI has recommended the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine for the COVID-19 booster programme.

The JCVI reviewed data on booster responses from different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines. This has shown both these vaccines are well tolerated as a booster dose and will provide a strong immune response.

This is irrespective of which vaccine was given as a primary dose.  

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as my flu vaccine?

There may be opportunities to give the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccines at the same time, but only where timing and logistics allow us to do this. 

Booster vaccination in care homes

Care homes for older adults

As we did at the start of the vaccination programme, we are prioritising residents in care homes for older adults (aged 65 and over) first for COVID-19 booster vaccinations.

This is because these adults are at very high risk of severe disease and mortality. Therefore they are the highest priority for vaccination.

How will care home residents get their booster vaccine?

Local health boards are sending mobile vaccination teams to offer COVID-19 vaccines to care homes. 

Booster vaccinations for younger adults in long-stay nursing and residential care settings

Care home residents where the majority of residents are under 65 years are also eligible for a booster this autumn. They are also at a greater risk from the virus and are listed within the ‘underlying conditions’ group.

They will receive a booster at a later stage, having had their second dose more recently. 

Booster vaccines for frontline health and social care workers

Eligible frontline health and social care workers are also being prioritised first for a booster vaccine. 

This is to protect workers at high risk of exposure who may also expose vulnerable individuals whilst providing care.

Protecting frontline health and social care workers protects the health and social care service. It also recognises the risks that they face.

Who is classed as a frontline health and social care worker?

Full details on occupations eligible are contained in the Green book chapter 14a pages 16-17

Greenbook COVID-19 chapter 14a

We published additional detailed guidance on who was regarded as a frontline social care worker for eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination in Phase 1. 

This guidance, based on the vulnerability of the person in receipt of care and the nature of the care or support provided, is still valid.

Health boards and their respective social care colleagues are responsible for identifying eligible health and social care workers.

They should ensure that eligibility is consistently applied across the system. This should be irrespective of the setting in which staff work.

Booster vaccines for homeless people

People who are or have recently experienced homelessness will be offered a booster dose first, as advised by the JCVI.

This is because people who are, or have been homeless will often have a lower than average life expectancy. They often have the physical health of a much older person and many have significant physical and mental health problems.

They should be prioritised for protection due to these health vulnerabilities, along with:

  • the risks associated with congregate settings of emergency or supported accommodation
  • difficulties with adherence to COVID-19 related restrictions
  • trauma and substance use issues

How will homeless people be called for the vaccine?

Identifying people who are, or have been homeless, can be challenging.  Many homeless people will not be registered with a GP or will not have up-to-date health records. 

Health boards are identifying people who are eligible via local authority homelessness coordination cell and housing support grant leads who support provider representative bodies and specialist services such as substance misuse services. 

Outreach teams and pop up clinics are then able to offer individuals the vaccines wherever they may be at the time, rather than expecting people experiencing homelessness to attend mass vaccination centres. 

This may include:

  • homeless service sites like shelters,
  • day programs
  • food service locations

Our national approach is an inclusive one. We want to ensure that no one vulnerable who should be vaccinated is missed and no one is left behind. 

We will continue to work with homelessness service providers to help the individuals they support to register and access health services.  

Further information on the decision to vaccinate those experiencing homelessness in Phase 1 .

Booster vaccines for individuals with a learning disability or severe mental illness

Individuals with a learning disability or severe mental illness who were eligible and prioritised in Phase 1 at the beginning of the programme will also be offered a booster first.

This is because individuals in this group are at increased risk of being severely ill if they contract Covid-19 and should be protected.

This includes:

  • Individuals with a severe/profound learning disability
  • individuals with schizophrenia
  • individuals with bipolar disorder
  • individuals with any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment

We continue with the principle and value of being more, rather than less, inclusive to avoid missing these vulnerable people who should be vaccinated.

Health boards are responsible for delivering the vaccine programme alongside partner organisations. This includes GPs, the local authority and third sector organisations. 

Health boards will identify those who are eligible via:

  • third sector partners
  • local authorities
  • community learning disability teams
  • community mental health teams
  • specialist services such as substance misuse services
  • families or carers

We published guidance in Phase 1 to explain the criteria being used to identify individuals with a learning disability or severe mental illness in priority group 6 for COVID-19 vaccination.

COVID-19 vaccinations for individuals with a learning disability or severe mental illness

Read additional information for eligible individuals | Mencap 

People with underlying health conditions

Individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable or have underlying conditions and were prioritised in Phase 1 will be offered an additional booster vaccine first.

This is because they have an increased risk of severe disease and mortality from COVID-19.

Who is classed as having an underlying health condition?

The JCVI priority list guidance include groups at higher risk, including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable or have underlying conditions.

Full details are contained in table 3 on pages 14-15 of the green book chapter 14a 

How will I be contacted

Health boards will use information from GP clinical systems to identify and offer appointments to those eligible. 

People with asthma

People with chronic respiratory disease, which includes people with 'poorly-controlled asthma' will be prioritised for a booster vaccine.

This is defined in the Green Book (page 14) as:

  • requiring continuous or repeated use of systemic steroids or
  • with previous exacerbations requiring hospital admission.  

This updated guidance on 16 September was done as part of a review of the risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19 in people with asthma which involved the British Thoracic Society and academic partners. 

Unpaid carers

Adult unpaid carers who were eligible and prioritised in Phase 1 will be prioritised for a COVID-19 booster vaccination.

This is to protect the vulnerable person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill.

The JVCI priority list guidance sets out groups at higher risk.

These include:

  • those  who are eligible for carer’s allowance
  • those who are the sole or primary carer of person who is clinically vulnerable to COVID-19

Read our guidance on who was regarded as an unpaid carer for eligibility for Phase 1 of our COVID-19 vaccination programme. 

How do I get my booster vaccine?

You do not have to do anything if all of the following apply:

  • if you are already registered as an unpaid carer with your GP
  • were eligible in phase 1 under this category
  • have received your first and second doses

You will be contacted 3 months after your second dose for your booster appointment.

If you have not previously registered as an unpaid carer or recently taken on a new caring role and are not eligible in any of the other categories, then you will need to contact your local health board to let them know: Get your COVID-19 vaccination 

Please note you will not be able to have your booster dose until 3 months following your 2nd dose. 

Third primary and booster vaccination doses for immunosuppressed people

Adults and children aged 12 and over with a severely weakened immune system are being offered a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to complete their primary vaccine course.

Once these individuals have completed their 3 dose primary course, they will be offered a booster dose with a minimum of 3 months between their third primary dose and their booster dose.

Household contacts of immunosuppressed people

Adult household contacts of the immunosuppressed will also be prioritised for a booster dose.

Those who are immunosuppressed have a weaker immune system to fight infections naturally, are more likely to have poorer outcomes following COVID-19 infection and may have an insufficient response to the Covid-19 vaccines. 

Vaccinating household contacts will help limit the spread of the virus. This applies to Individuals who expect to share living accommodation on most days (where close contact is unavoidable) with individuals who are immunosuppressed.

How do I get my booster vaccine?

You will be contacted automatically by your health board 6 months after your second dose if: 

  • you are an adult (16+) household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed
  • were eligible and registered in phase 1 under this category, and 
  • have received your first and second doses

If you are aged 16 or over and have become a household contact of an immunosuppressed person since phase 1, you will be eligible for a booster vaccine 6 months after your second dose. If you do not receive an appointment in this timeframe, then you will need to contact your health board: Get your COVID-19 vaccination

Check arrangements in your area

Those who are eligible for a booster will receive an appointment when it is their turn. They do not need to contact their health board.

Check your local health board for arrangements in your area.