The National Health Service (NHS) in England announced plans to offer a third vaccine also known as the COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.
It is known that vaccines lose their effectiveness over time, and the same is true for the relatively new COVID-19 vaccines. Administering booster shots were introduced in response due to the concern of public health officials regarding the waning of immunity and a solution to help fight contagious variants, particularly the Delta variant.
What do COVID-19 booster shots do?
A booster is simply another dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The concept is to prolong the effectiveness of the protective immunity it can provide. People develop significant levels of antibodies after getting a shot. But like other vaccines, antibodies gradually drop. A dose of COVID-19 vaccine booster can increase the levels of antibodies again.
Who can get a COVID-19 booster shot?
Booster vaccines will be available on the NHS for people most at risk from COVID-19 who have previously been fully vaccinated. Individuals who have received their second dose of an mRNA vaccine, either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. This includes:
- People aged 50 years and above
- People who live or work in care homes
- Frontliners such as health and social care workers
- People who are aged 16 and over with health conditions that put them at great risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19
- Carers who are aged 16 and above
- People aged 16 and above who live with someone likely to get infections
- People who are pregnant and included in one of the eligible groups can also get a booster
Fully vaccinated individuals will be offered a booster dose at least six months after receiving their second dose. The NHS will inform individuals who are eligible when it is time for them to have their booster dose.
Most people will be advised to book an appointment at a local NHS service such as GP surgery, a larger vaccination centre, or a pharmacy. Frontline health and social care workers can directly book their appointment through their employer.
What is the difference between an additional dose and a booster dose?
An additional dose is given to moderate to severely immunocompromised people who did not have enough protection when they were first vaccinated. Getting another dose of the vaccine increases their protection against the virus.
On the other hand, a booster dose is another dose of a vaccine given to people who have developed sufficient protection against the disease after vaccination but then decreased over time.
Does a booster vaccine need to be the same as the initial vaccine?
If possible, yes. Generally, the booster shots will be an extra dose of the original vaccine. Manufacturers are currently studying experimental doses tweaked to better match the Delta variant.
People will be given a second dose of either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Both of which have already been given to millions of people in the UK.
What are the possible side effects of the COVID-19 booster shot?
The following side effects are relatively similar for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, and these include:
- Painful and heavy feeling in the arm where the vaccine dose was injected. The pain tends to worsen around 1-2 days after the vaccine.
- Feeling tired
- General aches, mild flu-like symptoms
During this time, people who received the booster shots should rest and take paracetamol to alleviate any pain and discomfort. Feeling feverish is not common for 2-3 days as a high temperature is unusual and might indicate having a COVID-19 infection or another infection.
Fever can occur within a day or two after vaccination, but should you feel any COVID-19 symptoms or your fever last longer, stay at home and book a coronavirus test. While symptoms might last less than a week after vaccination, you can call NHS 111 if you are deeply concerned.