Covid-19 Q&A: When can I get my second booster and where?

Authorisation in European Union for Omicron-specific vaccines expected next month

The roll-out of second-booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines is to be extended to several further cohorts over the coming weeks. So who will be eligible and when?

When can I get my second booster?

From Monday those who are aged 60 or older are eligible to receive a second booster shot, as well as women who are at least 16 weeks pregnant. From August 22nd the roll-out of the second booster, or for most a fourth dose, will extend to those aged 55 and older.

People aged 50 or older will be able to receive the additional vaccination from August 29th. The second booster is also to be offered to healthcare workers, with details of when they can come forward for the shots expected in the coming weeks.

Those aged 65 and older and others with a weak immune system putting them at higher risk from Covid-19 have already been allowed to get the additional booster.

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Where do I get the booster?

Appointments are available for the booster shots at Health Service Executive (HSE) vaccination centres, as well as some general practitioners and pharmacists. Not all GPs or pharmacies are participating in the vaccination programme so it is best to call ahead to book an appointment.

The number of mass vaccination centres has been significantly reduced since the initial roll-out, which saw huge demand for vaccines. In Dublin, for example, the HSE is running three vaccination clinics, at the national show centre in Cloghran, north Co Dublin, a facility at the Citywest Hotel, and a centre at the Irish Management Institute in Sandyford, south Dublin.

There must be a four-month gap between a first and second booster vaccination. If you have contracted Covid-19 recently, you also have to wait four months between when you were infected and when you receive a booster shot.

Will there be third booster shots?

Yes. As with previous stages of the vaccination programme, the third booster dose will be offered to those at higher risk from the virus first. So from October people aged 65 and over as well as those with weak immune systems will be able to receive a third booster shot.

What about new Omicron-specific vaccines?

The Omicron sublineage BA.5, the dominant strain of the virus in Ireland, is highly transmissible and believed to be more resistant to current Covid-19 vaccines.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said it is likely authorisation for the use of Omicron-adapted vaccines in the European Union is to be issued in September.

Data on these new tailored vaccines is being reviewed by the European Medicines Authority. If the new vaccines get the green light in September, they may be available in the final months of this year, which could help blunt the worst of a winter wave of the virus.

What is the current situation with Covid-19?

The country has passed the summer wave of Covid-19 that saw widespread cases across the community and rising numbers of people in hospital with the virus. Latest figures show 344 people were in hospital with Covid-19 on Sunday, down from a peak of more than 1,000 hospitalisations earlier this summer.

Have many people opted for second boosters?

Health officials have been concerned at the low uptake of second-booster vaccines, particularly given those who have been eligible up to now were more vulnerable groups.

While more than 99 per cent of people aged 65 and older have received the first booster, less than two-thirds have come forward for the second extra shot, according to figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The lowest uptake has been among the immunocompromised, with figures from recent weeks showing just over a third of that cohort have got the second booster.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times