Covid-19 vaccine and booster
This page was updated on Tuesday 19 July 2022.
Everyone with M.E. experiences the condition individually and this means that there may be a range of reactions medication and vaccines. Having the Covid vaccine/booster or flu jab is your decision, based on your personal experience and your assessment of the potential risks and benefits. We are sharing evidence-based information from the UK Government and NHS below, in the form of frequently asked questions, to help you make an informed decision.
You may also wish to read Cort Johnson's blog (from July 2021, with comments ongoing) including the results of his poll of vaccine experiences by people with M.E. Please be aware this is anecdotal information, and not a peer-reviewed, published study.
Our Information and Support team can talk you through this information, and support you to think through your options, but they are not medically trained. For clinical advice about this or any other matter, please speak to your GP or other healthcare professional.
If you experience an adverse reaction to the vaccine, please use the Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site to share this with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. To report a Yellow Card for a side effect by phone, please call freephone 0800 731 6789 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).
What sort of vaccine will I get?
The COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in the UK are:
- Moderna vaccine
- Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
- Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
- Janssen vaccine (not currently available)
- Novavax vaccine (not currently available)
- Valneva vaccine (not currently available)
The NHS Coronavirus vaccine page says:
“People aged 75 and over, people who live in care homes for older people, and people aged 12 and over who have a weakened immune system, will be offered a spring booster […] You cannot usually choose which vaccine you have. If you book online, you'll only be offered appointments for vaccines that are suitable for you […] You should have the same vaccine for both your 1st and 2nd doses, unless you had serious side effects (such as a serious allergic reaction) after your 1st dose.”
Am I eligible for a booster?
The NHS website says:
“There are 2 booster doses of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine you may be able to get:
- a booster for everyone aged 16 and over, and some children aged 12 to 15 [the advice is that if had your second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago, you can go ahead and book - many people have already had this booster]
- a spring booster for people aged 75 and over, people who live in a care home for older people, or people aged 12 and over who have a weakened immune system [see below].
"If you have not had a booster dose yet, you're still eligible and can book anytime.”
Please click below for more information and booking links for
With regards to the spring booster, people with a severely weakened immune system include those who had or have:
- a blood cancer (such as leukaemia or lymphoma)
- a weakened immune system due to a treatment (such as steroid medicine, biological therapy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy)
- an organ or bone marrow transplant
- a condition that means you have a very high risk of getting infections
- a condition or treatment your specialist advises makes you eligible for an additional primary dose.
You'll be able to book a spring booster when it's been two months (61 days) since your last dose. You'll usually be contacted by the NHS, inviting you to book when it's due.
What about the autumn vaccination programme?
Back in February, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said:
"Despite the known uncertainties, in the year ahead, winter will remain the season when the threat from COVID-19 is greatest both for individuals and for health communities. It is JCVI’s interim view that an autumn 2022 programme of vaccinations will be indicated for persons who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19; such as those of older age and in clinical risk group."
On 15 July, the Government shared JCVI's final recommendations for this autumn’s programme, and wrote to all NHS England health providers.
Under the advice, those eligible for a further dose will be:
- all adults aged 50 years and over
- those aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group, including pregnant women*
- those aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
- those aged 16 to 49 years who are carers
- residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
- frontline health and social care workers
*Clinical risk groups are set by the JCVI in its Green Book, Chapter 14a. While this doesn't specifically list M.E./CFS under its "Chronic neurological disease" category, it does make the following clear (page 17):
"The examples above are not exhaustive, and, within these groups, the prescriber should apply clinical judgment to take into account the risk of COVID-19 exacerbating any underlying disease that a patient may have, as well as the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 itself."
In addition, the Department of Health and Social Care will be widening the offer of the free flu vaccine to more eligible groups. These additional groups will only be eligible once the most vulnerable, including previously announced pre-school and primary school children, those aged 65 years and over and those in clinical risk groups, have been offered the jab. The additional groups set to be offered the free flu vaccine in England will be:
- all adults aged 50 to 64 years
- secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9, who will be offered the vaccine in order of school year (starting with the youngest first).
The NHS will announce in due course when and how eligible groups will be able to book an appointment for their COVID-19 autumn booster, and when people aged 50 to 64 years old who are not in a clinical risk group will be able to get their free flu jab. People in these groups are asked not to come forward until further information is announced.
I had an adverse reaction to my first/second/both Covid vaccines; I’m don’t know whether to have the booster. Can you give me any useful information to help me make my decision?
A randomised study by Flaxman et al (September 2021, The Lancet) found that, in participants aged 18 – 55 years showed better immunity after the booster than after the second dose, and less side effects as compared with first doses. This study used people from the general population, and not people with M.E.
The UK Health Security Agency’s leaflet Covid-19: Your guide to booster vaccination, says: “If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist."
I’m concerned about the “mix n match” approach to booster vaccinations; I’ve heard that most people are going to be offered mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) even though they may have had Astra-Zeneca last time. What do we know about increased risk of adverse reactions?
Page 3 of NHS instructions to health providers, Immediate action required for Phase 3 booster vaccinations, notes that the JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer vaccine to be offered as the third booster dose, irrespective of which vaccine was used initially. "Alternatively, individuals may be offered a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, which should be well tolerated and is also likely to provide a strong booster response."
I haven’t had my first vaccine and the coverage of booster jabs is making me reconsider the issue. Can I still get my first vaccine?
The UK Health Security Agency’s leaflet COVID-19: Your guide to booster vaccination says: “The booster is being offered at least 6 months after your last dose. Like your previous doses, the vaccine will be given in your upper arm […] If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist […] If you have not yet had either of your first 2 doses of the vaccine you should have them as soon as possible. You will still need the booster but the timing of it will depend on when you had your first 2 doses.”