Have you heard about the COVID-19 booster jab?

It is the latest defence in our ongoing vaccination campaign to protect us from Coronavirus.  If you get your flu vaccination, as well as your booster, you will be getting maximum protection for yourself, your family and friends and your community during the winter season.

The booster campaign kicked off on 20 September. Over the coming weeks, targeted groups are being invited to get their third COVID-19 jab.  It is important to remember that, at present, you cannot walk into a clinic and get a booster jab without an invitation.

Here are few of the most commonly asked questions about the booster jab.

Why do I need a third jab – aren’t two vaccinations enough?

Although there is good evidence that a double dose of COVID-19 vaccine provides protection against severe disease for the majority, the vaccine’s effectiveness may start to wane over time.  Vulnerable people with weakened immune systems were among the first to be vaccinated.

It is important to ensure that the protection they have built up does not decline during the winter months when they are most at risk from respiratory diseases. A booster will provide that extra security! Some people are invited for a third jab if they are severely at risk eight weeks after their second doses. Six months after that they will be offered a booster.

Can anyone get a booster jab?

As with the initial vaccination roll out, we are targeting the most vulnerable people first and calling them for vaccination. These are people who have already had two doses of vaccine and are in these groups.

  • people aged 50 and over
  • people who live and work in care homes
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • people aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
  • carers aged 16 and over
  • people aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

People who are pregnant and in one of the eligible groups can also get a booster dose

Which COVID-19 vaccine will I get?

Most people will be offered a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine. This means your booster dose may be different from the vaccines you had for your 1st and 2nd doses.

Does the booster have any different ingredients to the first shots I had?

No, it is exactly the same strength as your first two vaccines and made in the same way.

When and where will I get my booster dose?

If you are eligible, you’ll be offered a booster dose at least 6 months after you had your 2nd dose. The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have a booster dose. It’s important not to contact the NHS for one before then.

Most people will be invited to book an appointment at a larger vaccination centre, pharmacy, or local NHS service such as a GP surgery. Frontline health and social care workers will be invited to book an appointment through their employer.

Are there any side-effects with the booster?

There may be a few mild side-effects that are the same as you may have experienced with your initial doses. These are:

  • 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 to help make you feel better.

Can I get the flu vaccination and COVID-19 booster vaccination together?

If you are offered both vaccines, it’s safe to have them at the same time. This will be offered during visits to people who are housebound and eligible and in care homes. This option should be available at our Merton COVID-19 clinics in the coming weeks

Do I have anything to be concerned about?

Nurse consultant Fiona White, who has overseen thousands of vaccinations in Merton since the start of the year said: “Vaccination is key to protecting yourself from COVID-19, Having your booster jab dramatically reduces your chances of being hospitalised during the winter.

“If you’re worried about your third jab when you come to the clinic just have a chat with any of our staff and we will talk through your concerns. We’ve got a great friendly team here and we are always here to listen and to help!”