WepPage last updated on: 8th September 2023
The UK Governments have recently announced that they have accepted the advice of the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) for a flu jab and autumn booster programme 2023. This will see eligible people get another booster vaccine against COVID-19 and a flu jab. To our knowledge his information applies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Who is eligible for the COVID booster and Flu jab?
The age cohorts for the flu and COVID vaccinations have been aligned and will allow for both vaccinations to be given at the same time.
Here is a list of everyone eligible for both the COVID and flu vaccine in the latest vaccine campaign:
- Residents in a care home for older adults.
- All adults aged 65 years and over.
- People aged 6 months to under 65 years in a clinical risk group.
- Frontline health and social care workers.
- People aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression.
- People aged 16 to 64 years who are carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person.
Anyone due to turn 65 years by 31 March 2024 will be eligible for both the flu and COVID vaccines. Anyone who is admitted to a care home for older adults, or who becomes immunosuppressed by this date should also be considered as eligible.
According to the Green Book, anyone with a history of a haematological malignancy, including leukaemia, would be considered a clinical risk group (immunosuppressed) and would be eligible for the Autumn booster. If you are still unsure whether you are eligible for the autumn booster, you can find further information in the Green Book on page 24 here. Alternatively please contact your healthcare team and/or our advocacy team on email@example.com to enquire.
Someone in my household is immunosuppressed - can I get the COVID and flu vaccines?
Yes, people who are household contacts and/or carers of immunosuppressed patients will be eligible for both the flu and COVID vaccines this Autumn. This is something Leukaemia Care has called for during previous booster campaigns and we are pleased to see this group included this Autumn.
When will I get the COVID booster and flu jab?
The autumn COVID booster and flu jab campaign is scheduled to run between September and December 2023, with the aim to complete the campaign by the 15th of December. Vaccinations are planned to begin nationally in care homes from the 11th of September, and the wider rollout of boosters and flu jabs is anticipated to begin formally on the 7th of October.
How do I get the autumn booster and flu jab?
Invitations are expected to be sent out to eligible patients by email, text, or as letters in the post, as with previous doses. From the 18th of September, eligible patients will also be able to book an appointment for their booster and flu jab using the national booking system online here.
If you aren’t able to book your vaccine online, you can call NHS 119 to book it over the phone. You can reach 119 Monday to Friday 9am-5pm or Saturday from 9am-1pm. Please note that the lines are closed on Sunday and bank holidays.
Should I bother with the autumn booster if I haven’t made any antibodies so far?
We would encourage everyone who is eligible to take up the offer of all COVID-19 booster vaccinations. This includes both people who have had a good antibody response to previous vaccines and those who haven’t. After the 3rd dose of the vaccine, there was some evidence that it increased an immune response in people who had not made many or any antibodies from the previous doses. Furthermore, antibodies are only part of the immune system and the role of other parts of the immune system isn’t yet fully understood. It is therefore possible that the boosters may yet boost your antibody production and/or your immune response further.
Evidence also shows the more recently you have been vaccinated the better protected you are.
Is the autumn booster the same as other vaccines?
Boosters from Pfizer, Moderna and Sanofi will be available during the Autumn campaign. The boosters have been updated from previous campaigns, and produce slightly higher levels of antibody against some strains of Omicron.
It cannot be predicted which additional variants of COVID will be circulating this winter, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have concluded that any of these updated vaccines can all be used in adults.
For a very small number of people, another vaccine product may be advised by your doctor.
People are being encouraged to take whichever booster vaccine they are offered and is suitable for them, as soon as they are able to. You won’t typically be able to choose which booster you are given, but you should be offered the correct one for you and should make the vaccines team aware if you aren’t able to have a particular vaccine for any reason.
I think I am behind on my vaccines, can I still get the COVID booster?
Yes, if you are eligible it is still possible to get vaccinated in the autumn programme, no matter where you are on the vaccine schedule. Book an appointment via the NHS website here from 18th of September onwards, attend a walk-in clinic with proof of your immunosuppressed status, or speak to a member of your healthcare team for more information.
Should I be concerned about the new COVID variant?
This year’s autumn flu and COVID vaccine programmes will start earlier than planned as a precautionary measure following the identification of a new COVID variant, BA.2.86.
BA.2.86 is not believed to be a variant of concern, but it has been suggested that speeding up the autumn vaccine programme will deliver greater protection for those at risk of severe illness.
Will I get both the Flu and COVID jabs at the same time?
The NHS have asked GP surgeries to offer both vaccines together where possible, but details of this might differ between GP surgeries.
Please contact your GP surgery for more information.
Is it safe to have both the Flu and COVID jabs together?
Yes, it is safe to have both jabs administered at the same time.
Questions for specific groups
I am currently having chemotherapy. Should I have the vaccine?
Since the roll out of the COVID vaccinations, many people will have had the vaccine close to chemotherapy treatment and we are unaware of specific problems in this group. As with other vaccines, there are specific times when they are recommended whilst you are on chemotherapy, to give the vaccines the best chance of working. If you are invited for the vaccine during a course of chemotherapy, please speak to your haematology team if you are unsure when is the most appropriate time for you to have it or to discuss any other concerns.
I have had or am currently having a transplant. Should I have the vaccine?
You can have the vaccine whilst on cancer treatment, but it is preferable that it is delivered at a time when you have an immune system working at some level. If you have been invited to have a vaccine, please speak to your care team for advice about when to have it.
I have already had COVID-19. Should I get a vaccine?
Natural infection with COVID-19 will generate an immune response, such as producing antibodies, as this is how your body fights off the virus. However, it is not clear how long this lasts in a person’s body. Initial studies have suggested that antibodies are short-lived after infection, and there have been cases of reinfection reported, although rare. Therefore, it is recommended that you still have the vaccination, as this has been designed to give strong and lasting protection.
Will the vaccines work for me?
There are studies which show that some people with leukaemia or similar blood cancers do not always respond as well to the vaccines as those with fully functioning immune systems. This is because some patients are unable to mount an antibody response or produce fewer antibodies which provides less protection against COVID-19. However, having a weak immune system does not necessarily mean that you will not respond to the vaccines at all; a small amount of protection is better than none, which is why you are encouraged to continue to take the vaccines when they are offered.
In addition, antibodies are not the only thing that is important. When you have a vaccine, you also make a response using your T cells; this T cell response is thought to be more important for immunity to viruses. In some studies blood cancer patients have shown a good T cell response to the COVID-19 vaccine, even if they produced a low antibody response.
It is important that you get all the doses of the vaccine that you are scheduled to receive, as this gives maximum protection.
There are several ongoing trials and studies to understand more about the immune response and vulnerability in those with suppressed immune systems, including many leukaemia patients. If you are interested in finding out more about any trials of this kind or taking part, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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