Covid: How effective is the vaccine and do I need a booster?

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By Philippa Roxby
Health reporter

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Being double vaccinated offers the best protection against the Delta variant, first identified in India and now dominant in the UK, according to a new study.

But people who have had both doses can still catch and transmit the disease, so researchers say it is essential that as many people are possible get the jab.

Everyone aged 16 and over in the UK can now receive the Covid vaccine, and a third jab is expected to be rolled out for the most vulnerable from September.

Who’s being vaccinated at the moment?

The JCVI – the scientific body advising the government on vaccines – says one dose of the Covid vaccine should be offered to everyone aged 16 and over. At the moment, 16-17-year olds are not expected to be offered a second dose.

How do I get a vaccine?

In England adults and those within three months of turning 18 can book a jab either online or by calling 119. You can also visit a walk-in clinic without an appointment. Check your local health providers and social media groups for details.

All 16 and 17-year-olds are being invited by text or letter to make an appointment through their GP, or they may be able to go to a walk-in centre in their area.

In Northern Ireland, you can book online or call 0300 200 7813. Walk-in centres are now open to older teenagers.

How soon should I get my second jab?

What’s the latest on booster jabs?

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was waiting for “final advice” from the JCVI before proceeding.

In an interim report, it said any booster programme should include the over-70s, the clinically extremely vulnerable and frontline health and social care workers.

And it suggested it would make sense for a Covid booster to be offered alongside the flu jab to adults aged 50 and over, and people aged 16-49 years in at-risk groups.

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What vaccine will I get?

The UK is using vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNtech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Moderna.

Do vaccines work against different variants?

The most common type of Covid currently in the UK is what’s known as the Delta variant, first identified in India.

After four or five months, the study suggests you have the same amount of protection whether you had AstraZeneca or Pfizer.

Neither is as effective against Delta as they are against the Alpha variant, which was responsible for most UK infections last winter.

Researchers don’t yet have enough data to compare the Moderna jab, but believe it is “almost certainly at least as good as the others”.

  • People who have had Covid-19 gain even more antibodies when fully vaccinated
  • The time between first and second doses does not affect the vaccines’ effectiveness
  • Younger people gain more protection from vaccination than older people

Scientists are constantly updating vaccines to target new variants. Oxford researchers are testing a new version of the AZ vaccine (targeting the Beta variant first detected in South Africa) in volunteers. Results are expected later this year.

Is vaccination compulsory?

Not for most people, although the government is urging everyone who can have the vaccine to get it.

Some private companies have also said their staff must be vaccinated.

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What is the advice to pregnant women now?

The Delta variant is causing more serious illness from Covid which means unvaccinated pregnant women and their babies are at risk.

In the last three months alone, 171 pregnant women with Covid needed hospital care. Data has shown that none of them had had both jabs.

More than 55,000 pregnant women across the UK have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with no safety concerns, says NHS England.

What about people with allergies?

You should discuss any serious allergies with your healthcare professional before being vaccinated.

Most people will not be affected in any way, although side-effects with all vaccines are possible.

The most common ones include a sore arm, headache, chills, fatigue and nausea.

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

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

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