MEET the experts…
We recently spoke to Dr Sophie Newton (GP, mum of three), Dr Amir Khan (NHS doctor from Yorkshire), Dr Jen Jardine (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) and
Dr Farzana Hussain (GP from East London), to answer all of your questions about Covid-19 boosters.
I’ve already had two vaccines. Why do I need a booster as well?
Omicron, the latest variant of Covid-19, is highly infectious and spreading fast. Boosters give you the best possible protection against the virus and greatly reduce your risk of serious illness and hospitalisation, so it’s more important than ever for you to get vaccinated.
The effectiveness of the vaccine wears off over time, but having a booster shot brings your protection against symptomatic Covid-19 back up to over 88 per cent.
“The latest data shows the booster jab reduces your risk of catching Covid-19, including the Omicron variant,” says GP Dr Sophie Newton. “It also offers much greater protection against Covid-19 than just two doses of the vaccine.”
I am worried about the side effects. Is the booster jab actually safe?
Millions of people have had the vaccine and, if they report any side effects, they’re generally very mild and don’t last more than 24 hours. When you compare this with the potential effects of getting Covid-19, which might see you needing time off work to self-isolate and recover, it’s an easy choice to make.
“The common side effects are a slightly sore arm, maybe a little bit of fever that you can take paracetamol for, and you might feel a little bit achy and fluey,” says GP Dr Farzana Hussain. “You might not even experience them at all, but we would expect to see these minor side effects with most vaccines.”
I only recently had my second vaccine. When am I eligible for a third dose?
You can get a Covid-19 booster vaccine three months after you receive your second dose, and in certain circumstances – for example, if you’re immuno-suppressed – you might be eligible to have your booster jab even sooner.
If you were not able to get your booster dose because you had Covid-19, you should book your jab 28 days after you no longer have the virus.
I’m not vulnerable so why should I bother with a booster?
Unvaccinated people are eight times more likely to be hospitalised than those who’ve had both doses of the vaccine and a booster.
You might be healthy but if you catch Covid-19 there’s a chance you could get Long Covid, which can have serious, lasting effects on your ability to exercise, work and enjoy relationships.
“Even healthy, fit people can suffer a multitude of short and long-term effects from catching Covid-19, plus they can pass it on to people who are more vulnerable,” says Dr Sophie. “So it’s definitely worth getting the booster.”
I’ve already had Covid. why should I have the booster jab?
As with the vaccination, your body’s immunity after you’ve had the virus wears off over time – and you can still carry and pass it on to others who might be more vulnerable.
“It’s a common myth: ‘Oh, I’ve had Omicron, I don’t need the booster,’” says Dr Farzana. “So many of us have had Omicron, and it would be wrong to say it doesn’t give you any immunity, but the booster will top it up for you.”
I’m pregnant – should I be worried about the booster vaccine?
Around one in five pregnant women hospitalised with the virus need their baby to be delivered prematurely to help them recover, which is why it’s important to get a booster jab when pregnant.
“We can be very confident that Covid-19 vaccinations provide the best protection for you and your unborn child,” says Dr Jen Jardine from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who is seven months pregnant.
“I would strongly urge all pregnant women who haven’t had the vaccine yet to speak to your GP or midwife if you still have questions, then book your jab right away.”
Is the booster jab effective against Omicron?
Every adult in the country needs to get a Covid-19 booster vaccine, because two doses do not give enough protection against Omicron.
“The booster has been shown to be very effective against Omicron, whereas the first two jabs alone don’t work as well,” says Dr Farzana. “People say Omicron is mild, but we have a high chance of being infected, and some will get very sick. By taking it, you’re protecting others and yourself against infection and Long Covid.
“If you don’t get the jab for yourself, get it for your family: your grandma, your grandad, your great aunt or uncle.”
How am I supposed to find time to have the jab?
Thanks to the roll-out of the vaccine and walk-in vaccination sites across the country, it’s quicker and easier than ever to get your booster.
“People are juggling busy lives, which is why the NHS is making it as easy as possible for you to get your booster,” says GP Dr Amir Khan.
“New vaccination sites have been set up nationwide, and existing sites have extended their opening hours, so as many people as possible can get jabbed as soon as possible.”
For more information, visit nhs.uk/covidvaccination
Northern Ireland: covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated