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Covid vaccine

COVID-19: How to book your booster jab before the autumn and winter waves

With the colder months approaching fast, cases of COVID-19 are expected to rise. Getting your booster vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness - so here’s everything you need to know.

Vaccination against COVID-19 doesn’t completely prevent you from getting the virus. However, it does lessen the chance of getting infected and it also reduces the chances of you becoming very unwell from COVID-19.

People aged 65 and over in England are being urged to get a top-up booster vaccine against COVID-19. In September 2023 the number of people going into hospital as a result of COVID-19 was on the rise, but intensive care admissions are still low1.

A new COVID-19 variant called Pirola, or BA.2.86, is spreading in the UK. Although the strain has many mutations - which makes it easier to infect people - vaccines still provide good protection against serious illness.

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Who can have a COVID-19 booster jab?

Those most at risk can have another vaccination for free on the NHS. All adults aged 65 years and over are being offered the vaccine automatically.

As of September 2023 you can only get the COVID-19 vaccine from the NHS if you meet certain criteria. You cannot buy it privately.

The following groups can have a booster vaccination this autumn:

Residents in care homes for older adults.

Adults aged 65 years and over.

People aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group.

Frontline health and social care workers.

People aged 12 to 64 who are household contacts of people with weakened immune systems.

People aged 16 to 64 who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults.

Pregnant women.

How to book your COVID-19 booster jab

People in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales who are eligible can book their vaccination through the NHS website, on the NHS app, or by calling 119. You can also book your jab by contacting your local GP surgery.

Anyone also eligible for a free flu jab may receive it at the same time.

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Why do we need COVID-19 booster jabs?

William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University, says that getting booster jabs stimulates the immune system to raise antibody levels. Antibodies are proteins that are produced as part of the body's immune response to infection that help get rid of disease-causing microbes from the body.

"Higher antibody levels generally are associated with a longer duration of protection against serious disease as well as some enhanced protection against variants," he explains.

Further reading

  1. GOV UK: Flu and COVID-19 surveillance report published.

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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