How effective are Covid boosters and do I need one to travel abroad? As officials step up rollout of third jab, the big questions answered
Who can now have a booster?
Since September all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable – 32million Britons in total – have been eligible for third doses. Yesterday this was extended to all those aged 40 to 49, an extra eight million, who can book their jabs from Monday. Individuals can only have their booster dose once six months has passed since their second.
How effective are boosters?
They are incredibly effective at topping up immunity, slashing the risk of infection by an extra 80 per cent compared with not having a booster. They are also likely to offer even greater protection against hospitalisation and death.
Yesterday the UK Health Security Agency published the first real-world data on protection offered by boosters, based on the cases of 271,000 over-50s. Two weeks after receiving a booster dose, protection against symptomatic infection increases to 94 per cent. This reverses the decline in protection six months after the second dose, when it drops to 44 per cent for the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab and 63 per cent for the Pfizer jab.
Since September all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable – 32million Britons in total – have been eligible for third doses (stock image)
Will under-40s get boosters?
Given the remarkable success of boosters at slashing the risk of infection, it seems likely that other age groups will soon be offered boosters as well. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation are monitoring data to see if immunity is waning in under-40s, and will make a recommendation in due course.
Will I need my booster to travel abroad?
Boris Johnson said third doses will soon be added to the NHS Covid App and be essential to go abroad without the need to quarantine. However, this is unlikely to be implemented until next summer.
Why the mounting pressure over booster uptake?
The Prime Minister yesterday warned ‘storm clouds’ of infection are gathering over Europe, forcing nations back into restrictions, with the concern Britain could be next. Officials are also worried about record pressures on the NHS, with the ambulance service in particular in crisis. Ministers believe boosters are vital to prevent a hospitalisations surge that could topple the NHS this winter.
How many people have had boosters?
The programme got off to a slow start but is now accelerating, with record numbers delivered last week. So far 12.8million people in the UK have had boosters out of around 20million who are eligible. About two thirds of eligible over-50s have had their booster, rising to three quarters of eligible over-75s. But this means millions remain vulnerable as their immunity wanes.
The programme got off to a slow start but is now accelerating, with record numbers delivered last week (stock image)