A woman receives the Covid vaccineImage source, Getty Images

By Jennifer Clarke

BBC News

Covid vaccine rules are changing, but those most at risk can have another jab this autumn.

All adults aged 65 years and over are being offered the vaccine automatically, following advice from UK immunisation experts.

In 2022, boosters were offered to all people over 50.

Who can have an autumn Covid booster?

At the moment you can only get the Covid vaccine via the NHS if you meet certain criteria. You cannot buy it privately.

  • residents in care homes for older adults
  • all adults aged 65 years and over
  • people aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • people aged 12 to 64 who are household contacts of people with weakened immune systems
  • people aged 16 to 64 who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • pregnant women

In autumn 2022, all over-50s were offered an extra dose, but the government’s advisers on vaccines recommended that only over-65s should automatically be included this year.

How do I book my Covid booster?

The NHS is contacting those who are eligible.

People in England can book their jabs through the NHS website, the NHS app or by calling 119.

The government hopes that as many people as possible will be vaccinated by 31 October.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also brought forward their booster rollouts.

As before, anyone also eligible for a free flu jab may receive it at the same time.

You can check if you qualify for an NHS flu vaccine on the NHS website.

Which vaccine will people get?

Vaccines from four different companies are in use across the UK: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Sanofi/GSK and Novavax.

Most people can have any of them, but those who are pregnant, under 18 or over 75, will be offered a particular jab.

If you are not in one of those categories, you cannot choose which vaccine you get.

People are advised to take whichever they are offered, as all provide protection against severe illness or death.

How long after having Covid can I have a jab?

If you have Covid, or think you might, NHS advice is to delay vaccination until you feel better.

It also recommends waiting if you have a high temperature or feel otherwise unwell with any illness.

But there’s no need to wait if you have recently recovered from Covid and feel well.

The vaccines do not infect people with Covid and cannot cause positive test results.

How many people have been vaccinated against Covid?

About 88% of people in the UK over the age of 12 (58 million) are thought to have had both a first and second dose of a vaccine, with 93% receiving a single jab.

A small number of children aged five to 11 (fewer than one million as of September 2022) had received a first and second dose of a coronavirus jab.

These numbers are based on the Office for National Statistics mid-year population estimates for 2021, and vaccine data from up to 7 May in Scotland and 5 May for the other UK nations.

In July 2022, an influential committee of MPs warned that Covid vaccine take-up had been too low for several important groups, including pregnant women, younger people and those from some ethnic backgrounds.

How are the rules changing about who can get the Covid vaccine?

At the moment, the only people who can get vaccinated for the first time are children aged between six months and four years, who are at increased risk from Covid.

When the Covid jab was introduced, people needed two doses to be considered safely vaccinated.

However, from autumn 2023, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has said only one jab will be required. Only people in the categories that are entitled to the autumn 2023 booster will be eligible.

People with weakened immune systems may be entitled to additional doses.

What are the side effects of the Covid vaccine?

They are part of the body’s normal immune response to vaccination, and tend to resolve within a day or two.

Media caption,

Why it is normal for some people to experience short-term side effects from Covid-19 vaccines

It has also been listed as a rare possible side effect of the Novavax vaccine, after a very small number of cases were reported during clinical trials.

A very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction after the Pfizer vaccine.

Patients with serious allergies should talk to their healthcare professional before being vaccinated.

What misinformation is there about Covid vaccines?

False and misleading claims about Covid vaccines have circulated online since they were first introduced. Most wrongly argue the jabs are not safe.

A number of social media accounts with lots of followers regularly misrepresent real stats and studies to do this.

Image source, Getty Images

Former Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen was expelled from the party after comparing the side effects of Covid vaccines to the Holocaust and breaching lobbying rules.

Studies confirm young people do not have an increased risk of other heart problems after taking the vaccine.

Others strands of disinformation wrongly suggest that negative things that have happened to people after they were vaccinated were caused by the injection.

Died Suddenly, a film from far-right US radio DJ Stew Peters, which promotes anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, has been found to drive harassment of bereaved families in the US, the UK and Ireland.

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