The Covid-19 booster vaccination rollout is to be extended as part of new measures to tackle the spread of the new Omicron variant in the UK.
The strain, first detected in South Africa, has been dubbed the “worst ever” coronavirus mutation as it appears to be more transmissible than other variants.
Omicron has been designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and as it can spread between people who are fully vaccinated, it is feared it could reduce the protection offered by existing vaccines.
Cases of the variant have now been identified in England and Scotland, and while some of these have been linked to travel, others are thought to have spread through community transmission.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is now advising that booster doses should be offered to all adults in a bid to prevent further infections.
Who can get a Covid booster jab?
All adults aged between 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 to top up their antibody levels to better protect against Covid-19, 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.
Boosters will also be offered to people aged 16 years old and over with a severely weakened immune system.
What about children?
Young people aged between 12 and 15 should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.
It is not currently recommended that this age group be given a third jab.
When should I get my booster dose?
Guidance states that booster doses should be given no sooner than three months after people have received their second jab.
This cuts off a three month wait from the current six month gap between doses, according to the JCVI.
Those who are severely immunosuppressed should be offered a booster jab no sooner than three months after completing their primary course of three doses.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair, COVID-19 immunisation, JCVI said: “Having a booster dose of the vaccine will help to increase our level of protection against the Omicron variant.
“This is an important way for us to reduce the impact of this variant on our lives, especially in the coming months.
“If you are eligible for a booster, please take up the offer and keep yourself protected as we head into winter.”
Which vaccine will I get?
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be used with equal preference in the Covid-19 booster programmer after being shown to substantially increase antibody levels.
When can I book my booster?
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.
Booster jabs are also available at walk-in vaccinations centres across England without the need for appointment. 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.
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.
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