Over the next few weeks, certain at-risk groups in the UK will be offered a Covid-19 booster.
Due to the discovery of a new Covid variant, England's autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccination regimens will launch earlier than anticipated.
Scientists from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) are investigating the variant BA.2.86, which was discovered for the first time in the UK on Friday, August 18.
The UKHSA's most recent risk assessment identifies BA.2.86 as having a large number of mutations and showing up in people without a history of travel in multiple nations.
Although BA.2.86 is not officially listed as a variant of concern, the UKHSA advises that accelerating the autumn vaccination plan will provide better protection, assisting individuals who are most at risk of serious illness and minimising any potential negative effects on the NHS.
The autumn booster offers increased protection against more serious Covid symptoms. If invited, you will receive a booster dose of a vaccine made by Pfizer, Moderna, or Sanofi. These vaccines have been updated since the original vaccines and target Covid variants. They offer slightly higher levels of antibodies against more recent strains of the virus, such as Omicron.
The UKHSA has also begun to show Covid statistics once again. The latest figures show that 168 people died with Covid in the most recent seven days, up 21% on the week before. The latest UKHSA stats show 11,022 new cases of Covid.
There are currently 2,768 people in hospital with Covid in England. Covid-19 hospital admissions in England are at their highest rate since the end of April, which shows hints the virus is likely to be circulating more widely among the population.
Here’s who will be eligible for the autumn booster and when you can expect to receive your appointment.
When will you be offered the autumn Covid booster?
For those who are most at risk, such as adult care home residents and those who are immunosuppressed, vaccinations started on September 11.
Invitations were sent out from the NHS starting on September 18 in priority order of risk.
If you have had previous booster doses, this will likely be timed around six months from your last dose. However, you’re able to have another booster after three months, so don’t worry if it’s slightly sooner.
In comparison to those who did not obtain an autumn booster vaccination last year, those who did were around 53 per cent less likely to visit the hospital with Covid two to four weeks after their vaccination.
The autumn booster programme last year protected the most vulnerable and made it easier for us to live with Covid by immunising more than 73 per cent of 65- to 70-year-olds and nearly 84 per cent of over-80s.
Who is eligible for the autumn Covid booster?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advises the following groups be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine this autumn:
residents in a care home for older adults
all adults aged 65 years and over
persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the Immunisation Green Book, COVID-19 chapter (Green Book)
frontline health and social care workers
persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression
persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults
The NHS and the Government have selected these groups because Covid affects older people and those with underlying health conditions more seriously. In addition, if you have not yet had either of your first two doses of the vaccine (or a third dose for those with a weakened immune system), you can also have the autumn booster to catch up to recommended levels.
Possible side effects of the autumn Covid booster
There are very few people who shouldn’t have the Covid booster. If you receive a letter inviting you to an appointment, you are advised to take it.
As with any previous Covid vaccines you may have had, there are some common side effects to be aware of, such as:
Painful, heavy feeling and/or tenderness in the arm where you had your injection, usually lasting one or two days after the vaccine
General aches or mild flu-like symptoms
To help mitigate these side effects, the NHS advises rest and taking paracetamol. Symptoms following vaccinations normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you should call NHS 111 or text or phone 18001 111 for personalised advice.
In particular, you should seek advice if you experience:
Shortness of breath
Feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart