Covid booster vaccine side effects: common symptoms of third dose, how long they last and who can get jab

The government is urging people to book their Covid booster vaccine ahead of winter to boost protection against infection

Millions of people across the UK are being invited to book a Covid-19 booster vaccine to ensure they have maximum protection against the virus this winter.

Invitations for third vaccine doses started being sent out to eligible people last month and more than a third of fully vaccinated over 80s in England have now received their booster shot.

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NHS England figures also show that 18% of people aged between 75 and 79 who are double jabbed are now likely to have received a booster, along with 8% of those aged 70 to 74.

This is the equivalent of just over 6% of the fully jabbed population.

If you have still yet to receive your booster dose, or not sure if you are eligible, here’s what you need to know about the rollout and the side effects to expect.

Who can get a booster vaccine?

People in the following categories are all eligible to receive a Covid-19 booster dose:

  • 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.

When can I book an appointment?

You should receive a letter or a text inviting you to book your booster vaccine when you are eligible.

The booking system will only allow you to book your third dose if it has been at least six months since you received your second jab.

Once you have been invited to book, you can do so online via the NHS national booking system.

You should wait to be contacted by the NHS before booking your booster. You may be asked to book this online or at a local NHS service, such as your GP surgery.

If you have had a positive Covid-19 test, you will need to wait four weeks before booking your booster from the date you had the test.

Which vaccine will I get?

Those eligible for the booster will be offered either a full dose of the Pfizer vaccine, or a half dose of the Moderna vaccine.

These vaccines will be used regardless of which jab individuals had for their first two doses as these have both been shown to provide a strong booster response.

In cases when neither of these vaccines can be offered, due to an allergy for example, the JCVI advises that the AstraZeneca vaccine can be used for those who received this jab for their first and second dose.

Will I get any side effects?

Much like with the first and second vaccine doses, it is normal to experience some side effects after your vaccine and symptoms can vary from person to person.

The NHS advises that in most cases, side effects will be mild and should only last for a few days.

The most commonly reported symptoms include:

  • a sore arm at the site of the injection
  • muscle aches
  • joint pain
  • fever
  • chills
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • nausea

You can take painkillers, such as paracetamol, to help ease the side effects. If your symptoms get worse or you are worried, you should call 111 for advice.

If you have a high temperature that lasts longer than two days, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, you may have Covid-19. In this case, you should stay at home and take a coronavirus test.

You cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccine, but it is possible that you may have caught it just before or after your vaccination.

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