Senior health chiefs are urging all elgible people to get their booster jabs to prevent help boost immunity after the discovery of a new Covid variant.
Categorised a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa, can spread between people who are fully vaccinated.
While scientists are still gathering data on its effects, it is feared the new strain could reduce the protection offered by existing vaccines.
As such, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is now extending the booster vaccination programme to allow all adults in the UK to get a top up dose to try and minimise a rise in infections.
The government has introduced new restrictions in England to help combat the spread, with face masks now mandatory in all shops and on public transport.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The measures taking effect today (30 November) are proportionate and responsible, and will buy us time in the face of this new variant.
“Based on everything we know, our vaccines and boosters remain our best line of defence, so it is more important than ever that people come forward when eligible to get boosted.
“Not only will today’s steps help us slow down the variant’s spread, but they will help us protect each other and the gains we have all worked so hard for.”
But who is eligible for a booster vaccine, and how do you book one? This is what you need to know.
When can I get my booster jab?
All adults between the age of 18 and 39 will be offered a booster dose, under new JCVI guidance.
The jabs will be rolled out in order of descending age groups, with priority to be given to older adults and those in an at-risk group.
Those aged 40 and over are currently already eligible to get a booster vaccine. A top-up dose will also be offered to people aged 16 years old and over with a severely weakened immune system.
Guidance states that boosters should be given no sooner than three months after people have received their second jab, halving the previous six month wait between doses.
Those who are severely immunosuppressed should be offered a booster jab no sooner than three months after completing their primary course of three doses.
How do I book my booster jab?
Booster doses will be rolled out in order of descending age groups and should be given no sooner than three months after the second jab.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the NHS will start inviting people to book an appointment “at the appropriate time”, with guidance due to be set out “in the next few days”.
In England, people should receive a letter or a text inviting them to book their booster vaccine dose when they are eligible. Once you have been invited to book, you can do so online via the NHS national booking system.
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.
People can also book by calling 119 or get vaccinated at hundreds of walk-in sites across England without an appointment. Those eligible can use the NHS online walk-in finder to find their closest site.
If you are in Scotland, the NHS inform website features a handy tool which explains how you will be invited for your booster vaccination.
In Wales, you will be contacted by your health board when it is your turn to book your jab. You should not contact your GP to ask about appointments.
In Northern Ireland, the booster programme is underway with residents and staff in care homes being offered a dose, while GPs will be inviting their older patients in first to receive their booster. You should wait until you are contacted to book an appointment.
Can I go to a walk-in centre?
Covid-19 booster jabs are available at walk-in vaccinations centres across England without the need for appointment.
From 1 November, anyone who is eligible for a booster can turn up at one of hundreds of jab sites for their top-up.
NHS England has advised people to use its online walk-in finder to check where their nearest vaccination site is.
The health service said almost every person who is registered with a GP practice lives within 10 miles of a fixed vaccination site.
The walk-in finder website will reveal whether a vaccination centre is offering booster doses, vaccines for 12 to 15 year-olds, or anyone aged 16 and over.
To find your nearest walk-in centre offering booster doses, enter your details on the NHS website.
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.
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.