On 1st July 2023 the vaccination programme in the UK was changed to a seasonal booster one. People who are eligible are currently able to get an Autumn booster.
Children aged 6 months to 4 years who are at higher risk of getting ill from COVID-19 are still able to get a 1st and 2nd vaccine through their GP surgery at any time of the year.
After the 1st of July 2023 the UK changed its COVID-19 vaccination programme to mainly a seasonal booster campaign. Vaccinations are still the best way to offer protection from COVID-19, but this protection fades over time, which is boosted with the seasonal vaccinations.
You will be able to get a seasonal COVID-19 vaccination if you are at increased risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. Specific groups eligible are:
- Residents in a care home for older adults
- All adults aged 65 years and over
- People aged 6 months to 64 years who at increased risk
- Frontline health and social care workers
- People aged 12 to 64 years who live with people with immunosuppression
- Persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers.
People who are at increased risk of getting ill from COVID-19 includes those with a weakened immune system due to conditions such as lymphoma, having had treatments including chemotherapy, steroids, radiotherapy or a stem cell transplant, or from having their spleen removed. If you are not sure whether you are entitled to one speak to your GP or specialist team.
There are several COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the UK. The COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK and being used this season are:
- Pfizer /BioNTech (Comirnaty®)
- Moderna (Spikevax®)
- Sanofi and GSK (VidPrevtyn Beta®)
Anyone who gets COVID-19 can become seriously ill or have long-term effects (long COVID). The COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others. All these vaccines give very high protection against COVID-19. They have been through a rigorous approval process to make sure they are safe and effective.
If you are over 75, under 18, or are pregnant, you may have to have a particular vaccination, otherwise you do not get to choose which one you have. The Sanofi and GSK vaccine contains an oil from sharks, which may be relevant to some people. The other vaccines do not contain any animal products including egg.
Watch an NHS YouTube video explaining what's in the COVID-19 vaccines and how they work.
If you are eligible for a seasonal vaccine, you can book online, via the NHS app or by going to a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site. From 15th December 2023 you will not be able to book a COVID-19 vaccination using this service. You may still be able to book it with a local NHS vaccination service.
Anyone who is eligible will be contacted by NHS Scotland via letter, email or text. This will give you appointment details or ask you to arrange an appointment online or by phoning 0800 0308013. You may also be able to attend a drop-in clinic. You can find a list of available drop-in clinics on your local health board website. If you have not been contacted and think you should have been speak to your GP or specialist team, or call 0800 0308013.
In Wales your local Health Board will contact you text inviting you to book a vaccination or attend a local drop in clinic. If you are not contacted and think you should have been speak to your GP, specialist team or Health Board.
The booking service is no longer in use and if you think you are eligible for a vaccination you can get this at your GP surgery or community pharmacy.
The vaccines are suitable for nearly everybody.
They can't be given to people who are allergic to any of their ingredients. Most people with allergies (including food or penicillin allergies) can be vaccinated against COVID-19. Tell healthcare staff before you're vaccinated if you've ever had a serious allergic reaction (including anaphylaxis). They may ask what you're allergic to, to make sure you can have the vaccine.
Some people with lymphoma have lowered immunity and might not respond as well as other people to vaccination. Lots of clinical trials are being carried out to test how effective the vaccine is in people with lymphoma and other types of blood cancer.
Results of trials carried out so far suggest that:
- Most people with Hodgkin lymphoma or high-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma who finished treatment more than six months ago produce antibodies in response to vaccination.
- Many people with low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma produce antibodies in response to vaccination, but at lower levels than healthy people.
- People who are having treatment for lymphoma, or finished treatment within the last 6 to 12 months, are less likely to produce antibodies in response to vaccination, especially if they had treatment that targeted B cells.
- If people don't produce antibodies after initial COVID-19 vaccine doses, they may produce antibodies after additional doses.
It’s important to remember that antibodies aren’t the only way your body responds to vaccination (although they are the easiest response to measure). We also don’t know how antibody levels relate to your overall protection from COVID-19. Other parts of your immune system, such as T cells, are important too. T-cell responses to vaccination are harder to measure than antibodies, but early results suggest that many people who do not produce antibodies in response to vaccination are still able to produce T cells.
As with any treatment, side effects from the vaccinations can happen but they are rare, and in almost everyone the benefits outweigh these.
The main side effects are:
- a sore arm from the injection
- feeling tired
- a headache
- feeling achy
- feeling or being sick.
You may also get a high temperature or feel hot or shivery 1 or 2 days after your vaccination. Any side effects are usually mild and should not last longer than a week.
A rare side effect of the vaccination is swollen lymph nodes. This is because the vaccine causes an immune response which can cause nodes to become enlarged. They usually occur on the same side of the body that the vaccination was given and disappear after about a month. If the swellings are more widespread, last for longer or you have other symptoms discuss it with your GP or specialist team.
There have been rare cases of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) reported after COVID-19 vaccination. Most people who had this recovered following rest and simple treatments.
Get urgent medical advice if you have any of these symptoms within a few days of being vaccinated:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart (palpitations).
Each nation has information about the COVID-19 vaccines: