There’s Been A Major Change To The UK’s Vaccine Booster Rules

Here’s everything you need to know.

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Young woman wearing mask getting vaccinated
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As the UK gears up for a “challenging winter” — what Health Secretary Sajid Javid referred to as a "race between the virus and the vaccine" – talk about booster jabs is reaching fever pitch. with added concerns about the new coronavirus variant Omicron — COVID-19 booster jabs are currently being offered to help strengthen people’s immunity. The national rollout of the booster programme has been accelerated after data suggested two doses of a Covid vaccine were “not enough to stop people catching the variant,” per BBC News.

Top-up jabs were first introduced in the UK back in September for vulnerable people and frontline health workers after it was discovered that vaccine protection from all available jabs “begins to wane after about six months.” A third dose, the UK Health Security Agency says, gives around 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection. So who is eligible for the booster jab and how do you book an appointment? Here’s what you need to know.

Who Is Eligible To Get The COVID Booster Jab In The UK?

At first, booster jabs were only available to certain groups who were considered vulnerable. The government was periodically making them available to ages groups, starting with over 50s, then over 40s, and later, adults aged 18-39. With Omicron, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has further extended the guidelines to allow every adult over the age 18 to book their booster jabs from Dec. 15, one month earlier than planned. People aged 30 and over can book their top-jabs from Dec. 13 in England.

It is hoped, per the NHS, that every eligible adult should have an opportunity to book in for their booster jab “by the end of January.”

In Scotland, people aged 30-39 will also be able to book a booster from Dec. 13, with the jabs made available for younger people “later in the week.” In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford says “older people and those at greatest risk are being prioritised at the moment” (Dec.12) per ITV News, adding that it will “increase the number of people who will receive their booster in the coming days and weeks.” For Northern Ireland, walk-in boosters have been made available for those 30 years old and over, too.

How To Book Your COVID Booster Jab In The UK?

The quick answer? Not that easily. Demand is so high that vaccination centres around the country are overrun and have long queues, while the NHS booking system as repeatedly crashed, per Sky News.

More people are now eligible and are being invited to book their booster appointment three months (91 days) after their second jab. (Previously, people had to wait five or six months to receive a top-up.)

The booster jab will either be Pfizer or Moderna, and you don’t have to receive the same vaccine that you were originally vaccinated with.

In England, you can make a booking for your booster via the NHS website or by calling 119. If you are aged between 18 and 39, you will not yet be able to book via the NHS Website until Dec. 15. It’s worth noting that the NHS booking system is currently facing “extremely high demand” and is now operating a queueing system. NHS walk-in centres are also in operation, where people can arrive without an appointment, but do expect queues.

People in Scotland are being invited to receive their booster in order of risk, (and eligible people can book appointments online). The same goes for Wales, where the most vulnerable are being prioritised. However, Wales officials urge people not to contact GPs about appointments, instead asking they do so via the website. In Northern Ireland there are walk-in hubs available now for people over 30 and says their “online booking platform will be updated soon to allow for bookings also.”

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