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COVID Booster Vaccine Explained

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

A COVID-19 booster is an additional dose of vaccine that is given some time after people have received their first two vaccinations. Scientists determine the best time to give it, calculated for when your level of protection starts to wane. It then provides your immunity with the boost it needs to keep you maximally protected.

Is the booster different to an additional, or third, vaccine?

Simply put, a COVID-19 booster is given at the end of a vaccination course completion and when immunity begins to reduce. For Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca, it’s the same dose as the original vaccine. For Moderna, it’s half the dose, as this has been shown to be just as effective.

For those who are identified as immunocompromised, through medication or condition, they will be offered a third dose of the original vaccine, and later a booster. They need this to achieve the same level of immunity and protection as everyone else.

Why do I need a booster?

While initial variants of COVID-19 responded well to the two jabs that make up "full vaccination", it was felt that immunity started to drop with time, and a booster gives the immune system that push back into high protection.

As the new variant, Omicron, came along, a booster plus the initial two jabs were shown to be much more effective against catching it or getting seriously ill from it, than just the two jabs alone. This has proved important as Omicron has become the dominant strain, and as it's much more contagious than previous variants.

Am I eligible for a booster vaccine?

Everyone over the age of 16 years old can get their booster dose, after they’ve completed their initial series of vaccinations. You can get your booster dose at least 3 months after your second dose of the vaccine (or third if you are immunocompromised).

Some children aged 12 to 15 are eligible for a booster dose if either they live with someone who has a weakened immune system or they have a condition that means they're at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

Which booster will I get?

In the UK the main booster doses will be from either the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine. If there is any reason you are unable to have those vaccines, such as allergy or previous reaction, you may be offered the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. This means that your booster dose may be different to your initial vaccines. Studies have shown that this regime is highly effective.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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