Information on COVID-19 vaccination for front line health and care staff

This page is for staff who work in health and care organisations in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) to find out more about the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme.  It complements our Frequently Asked Questions page with information of particular use to those who work across our health sector. For example you might work in a care home, hospital trust or you may be a social work practitioner.

All frontline health and care workers have now been offered a first, second and booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. To be eligible for a booster, it must be at least 3 months (91 days) since your second dose.

The vaccination programme has been very successful in weakening the link between infection, hospitalisation and death, and findings from studies have shown fully vaccinated people were much less likely to pass the virus om to their close contacts . Even a small effect will have major additional benefit for staff who could expose multiple vulnerable patients and other staff members

Is it compulsory for all frontline health and care staff to have the Covid-19 vaccination?

As you may know, a further national consultation on mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for frontline NHS colleagues has been announced with the intention to revoke the legislation altogether. We will be reviewing the guidance over the coming days and will provide further updates on this when available, but please note that any personal vaccination information provided is on a voluntary basis and formal meetings should no longer take place.

We’d like to thank everyone who has given support to help us prepare for the expected mandatory vaccination of frontline colleagues, particularly those of you who have supported colleagues across our services and everyone who has already had their vaccinations.

Having your Covid-19 vaccinations remains the best way of protecting yourself against Covid-19 and all staff are welcome regardless of whether it is their first, second or booster vaccine. We encourage colleagues who have not yet been fully vaccinated to continue having supportive conversations and to have their vaccines. Information about all the ways to have your Covid-19 vaccine, including how to book an appointment at dedicated clinics for people with injection concerns, is available at grabajab.net.

We know that this is a very emotive topic and appreciate that the last few weeks and months have been difficult for some colleagues. Please reach out to your line manager, people or HR teams, trade union or Freedom to Speak Up colleagues if you need support.

What is the Covid-19 Booster Programme?

The Covid-19 booster programme is the rollout of an additional vaccine dose to people who have previously received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to ensure continued protection for those most at risk from having Covid-19.

Is the Covid-19 Booster mandatory for frontline health and care staff?

It is not mandatory to have a Covid-19 booster. However, many frontline staff are at higher risk of Covid-19 due to their role and we recommend that you have the booster if you are eligible to ensure maximum protection. This should be at least 3 months after your second dose.

The latest evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) shows that protection against symptomatic disease falls from 65%, up to three months after the second dose, to 45% six months after the second dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and from 90% to 65% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Protection against hospitalisation falls from 95% to 75% for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 99% to 90% for Pfizer/BioNTech.

The booster programme is designed to top up this waning immunity. Early results from Pfizer show that a booster following a primary schedule of the same vaccine restores protection back up to 95.6% against symptomatic infection.

What vaccine type is being used for the Booster Programme? What if it’s different to the one I have had?

After reviewing data on booster responses from different combinations of Covid-19 vaccines, the JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer (now called Comirnaty) vaccine to be offered as the booster dose, irrespective of which type of vaccine was used in the primary schedule. There is good evidence that the Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine is well tolerated as a booster dose and will provide a strong booster response.

Alternatively, individuals may be offered a half dose of the Moderna (now called SpikeVax) vaccine, which should also be well tolerated and is also likely to provide a strong booster response. A half dose of Moderna (SpikeVax) vaccine is advised over a full dose due to the levels of side effects seen following boosting with a full dose in clinical trials.

Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered, for example, due to possible allergies, vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received AstraZeneca vaccine in their primary course. More detail is available in the Government guide to the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, known as the green book.

Why is the Booster Programme needed?

We want to provide the people that are most likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 and those who care for them with the best possible protection for this winter. The JCVI has reviewed available data and provided advice that COVID-19 boosters are first offered to the most vulnerable in order to provide maximum protection during the winter months.

It is important to note that everyone who has had 2 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will have good protection from coronavirus; however, due to the higher exposure that frontline health and care staff may have to coronavirus, the aim is to ensure they have as much protection as possible against Covid-19 this winter.

The flu vaccination programme is now also running which protects people from serious complications from getting flu, so we would also encourage people that are eligible for a Covid-19 booster to also get their flu vaccination. More information on the flu vaccination is at www.nhs.uk/flujab

What is the definition of frontline health and social care workers?

For the purposes of the Covid-19 Booster Programme, frontline staff are defined as frontline health and social care staff whose second dose was over 3 months ago and whose role involves either providing direct care or having direct contact with people receiving care.

How do I have my COVID-19 vaccines?

It is not too late to have any of your Covid-19 vaccinations and there are a number of ways you can access them:

  • If you work in a Hospital Trust, Hospital Vaccination Hubs are reopening to provide COVID-19 boosters to frontline staff. Initially, booster invitations will be prioritised for frontline staff according to peoples’ level of risk due to personal characteristics, risk due to area of work and length of gap between their initial first and second dose with people who had a 3-week gap given priority.
  • All frontline health and social care staff can book a COVID-19 booster using the National Booking Service or calling 119, where you can self-declare that you are a frontline worker.
  • You can attend a walk-in vaccination clinic. Full details can be found here.
  • Your GP will also contact you and offer an appointment for a COVID-19 Booster.

I’m not sure if I qualify for a booster.

COVID-19 boosters are being offered to frontline health and social care staff whose second dose was over 3 months ago and whose role involves either providing direct care or having direct contact with people receiving care.

Your organisation can confirm if you are eligible for the booster.

Will all health and social care staff be offered the COVID-19 booster, or just frontline staff?

At the moment, we have only been asked to offer a COVID-19 booster to frontline health and care staff.

Can I have my COVID-19 booster sooner than 3 months after my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine?

No. If you are in one of the groups eligible for a booster, it is important that you wait at least 3 months after your second dose as we know that the booster is more effective with at least a 3 month gap. It’s important to note that if you have had 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, you will still have good protection from coronavirus; the purpose of the Booster Programme is to enhance protection for those who are at greatest risk this winter.

Will the flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster vaccine be given at the same time?

The COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccine can be given on the same day and for people that are eligible for both, there may be opportunities to have both together. We would encourage you to get your vaccinations as soon as possible and get fully protected rather than waiting as it may not always be possible to get them together.

How do I book my flu vaccine?

Your employer will confirm the arrangements for booking your flu vaccine as they will vary depending on who you work for. If you are offered the flu or COVID-19 booster vaccine, separately or together, please take up the offer as it is vital that staff do not delay having either vaccination.

Can I have the booster if I haven’t completed the first vaccination course?

No, any additional dose you have will be counted as your 2nd dose, regardless of when you had your first dose.

Can I have my first or second COVID-19 vaccine at a Hospital Hub?

The Hospital Hubs have been reopened in order to provide COVID-19 boosters and flu vaccines. If you have not had your first or second COVID-19 vaccination, you can book an appointment on the National Booking Service or call 119. You can also attend any of the walk-in clinics in our area without making an appointment. Please visit www.grabajab.net for a full list of walk-in clinics and a link to the National Booking Service.

Can I have the booster vaccine if I am pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant?

Yes. If you are pregnant you are eligible to receive a booster, no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is recommended in pregnancy. Studies have shown that hospital admission and severe illness from COVID-19 are more common in pregnant women (compared to those not pregnant), especially those in the third trimester of pregnancy, and that stillbirth and preterm birth is more likely (compared to pregnant women without COVID-19).

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding, please visit the ‘Pregnancy’ section on our Frequently Asked Questions page.

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists has published information for healthcare professionals and pregnant women eligible for vaccination, including a leaflet about having the vaccine during pregnancy.

I haven’t yet had the COVID-19 vaccination, can I still get my first jabs?

If you have not taken up the offer, it isn’t too late. You can book an appointment using the National Booking Service or by calling 119. Alternatively, you can attend any of our walk-in clinics without making an appointment – a full list can be found at www.grabajab.net.

If you have a query which is not answered here or on the Frequently Asked Questions page, please speak with your line manager, trusted colleagues, or send us an email, clearly stating your name, role, and organisation.

How do vaccines work? With Professor Jonathan Van-Tam

Coronavirus - getting vaccinated