The vaccine programme has been a vital part of the UK’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We now need everybody to get boosted to ensure that we can continue to live normal lives.
Nearly 40 million people have had their booster jab. The arrival of the new Omicron variant means that two doses does not give you enough protection – but scientists and experts in the UK and abroad agree that getting boosted does give you that extra armour against the virus.
Boosters top up your protection against Covid-19 infections, and after having a booster you are at least 85% less likely to end up in hospital than if you are unvaccinated.
The government has tried to make it as easy as possible for people to get jabbed, but many have concerns, or feel they are simply too busy to take the time out. We spoke to a few Brits who were initially sceptical about the jab, but who have now felt the benefits of that extra protection.
“I’ve always hated needles”
Forty-nine year old mum of three Saj Fareed lives in Brighton, where she runs an art and crafts company called fursatbox.com.
But when the vaccines began to be rolled out last year, she was initially fearful.
“I have always hated needles. I don’t know why. I remember watching Animal Hospital as a child – I couldn’t even watch them going into animals and if someone is injected on television, I have to look away,” she said.
Saj’s heart sank when it became apparent that the jab was the way forward.
“I was offered it in March or April last year, and I didn’t make an appointment – I left it a couple of months. Not only was I scared of the injection, I was worried about how I’d react to it – you hear of people who felt really unwell,” she tells us.
But eventually, she says she understood that she had to get the jab for the sake of her family.
“I realised I had to treat it like the measles jab and get it done. I had no choice because of my family – my 17-year-old daughter Shifa is asthmatic and my parents are very vulnerable. Without the vaccination, would I be able to see them?
“I reluctantly realised I had to think beyond myself and instead think about the community.”
Accompanied to the vaccination centre by her daughter, Saj finally bit the bullet and got her jab. She was understandably a bit wary when it was announced that she needed a booster vaccination, but she once more gritted her teeth.
“The people doing it were brilliant – so supportive and understanding of my fear. I even got a sticker,” she says.
Scientists are convinced that not only is the jab safe for pregnant women, it’s really important for unborn babies, too. Pregnant women who get symptomatic COVID-19 infection are 2 to 3 times more likely to give birth to their baby prematurely.
In December 2021, the JCVI advised that pregnant women of any age should be considered a clinical risk group within the COVID-19 vaccination programme. This means they are actually a priority group to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
But some expectant mothers are concerned about their children’s health. We spoke to one now-mum who is happy she changed her mind on the vaccine.
Hertfordshire 32-year-old Rhian Thompson was initially hesitant about having the vaccine when she was pregnant last year.
“When I first heard about the vaccine we were about to start trying for a baby and I felt quite nervous about it because I didn’t understand how scientists would know its impact,” she says.
“By the time it was my turn to get the vaccine I was pregnant with Finley, who’s now four months old. It was April and the world didn’t feel like a particularly scary place then. Cases were lower, we were coming into the summer and I felt quite confident that I could probably avoid situations and people.
“My daughter, Evie, who’s three, wasn’t in nursery, I work from home running my own childrenswear business, Bibevie and I could meet people outside. So I thought I could manage my risk until October, which was when the baby was due,” she continues.
She wasn’t alone – lots of people were asking similar questions about getting the jab. But as more and more became known about the effects of the jab, she finally received advice she could trust from an immunologist who specialises in the effect of vaccines on pregnancy – and went ahead and got the jab.
The key thing is that there is no evidence to suggest the vaccine brings any harm to unborn babies, and vaccines remain the best protection against Covid-19. Getting seriously ill from Covid-19, however, can increase the chance of your baby being born prematurely, or in less than perfect health.
“Although I was only single jabbed when I gave birth, I’ve now had two vaccines and a booster. I caught Covid in December and to be honest I wouldn’t really have known I’d had it if it hadn’t come up on a lateral flow test. I was breastfeeding Finley, who’s now four months, and he didn’t catch it – and we’re both fine.”
It’s not too late
It couldn’t be easier to get your jab, whether it’s your firs, second or the booster, and join the billions of people across the world who are protected against the worst of Covid-19.
Book your booster shot now at nhs.uk/covidvaccination If you are In Scotland visit nhsinform.scot/covid-19-vaccine for Wales visit gov.wales/get-your-covid-19-vaccination and for Northern Ireland visit covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated