A guide to the COVID-19 autumn programme

Updated 5 September 2023

Applies to England

A guide to the COVID-19 autumn programme

A dose of the COVID-19 vaccine will be offered this autumn to people aged 65 and over, residents in care homes for older people, anyone aged 6 months and over in a clinical risk group, and health and social care staff. Appointments will be available from the National Booking Service shortly.


A dose will also be offered to:

  • frontline health and social care staff
  • those who care for vulnerable individuals
  • families of individuals with weakened immune systems

The autumn programme is targeted at those at high risk of the complications of COVID-19 infection, who may have not been vaccinated for a few months.

As the number of COVID-19 infections may increase over the winter, this dose should help to reduce your risk of being admitted to hospital with COVID-19. The vaccine may also provide some protection against mild COVID-19 infection but such protection does not last for long.

Timing of the autumn programme

You should be offered an appointment between September and December, with those at highest risk being called in first. You should have your vaccine at least 3 months after your last dose of vaccine.

If you are eligible for a flu vaccine, you may be able to have them at the same time – if not please go ahead anyway, you can catch up with the other vaccine later.

Vaccines being offered this season

You will be given a vaccine made by Pfizer, Sanofi or Moderna.

The vaccines are updated forms of the vaccines used in previous campaigns and produce slightly higher levels of antibody against some strains of Omicron.

As we cannot predict which variants of COVID-19 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.

Please accept the vaccination that is offered to you as soon as you are able to – it is important to have your vaccine to build up your protection against severe illness before the winter.

People who cannot take up the offer of a vaccination this autumn

There are very few people who should not have this vaccine. If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine, you should discuss this with your doctor.

Potential side effects

Common side effects

As with your previous dose, the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines, including the updated vaccines being used this spring and include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection – this tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine

  • feeling tired

  • headache

  • general aches or mild flu-like symptoms

You can rest and take paracetamol following the dose advice in the packaging to help you feel better.

Although a fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and you may need to have a test.

Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111 or for textphone use 18001 111. You can also report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card scheme.

Serious side effects

Cases of inflammation of the heart (called myocarditis or pericarditis) have been reported very rarely after both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. These cases have been seen mostly in younger men and within several days of vaccination. Most of the people affected have felt better and recovered quickly following rest and simple treatments.

You should seek medical advice urgently if, after vaccination, you experience:

  • chest pain

  • shortness of breath

  • feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart

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.

Reporting side effects

Suspected side effects can be reported to the Yellow Card scheme:

Catching COVID-19 after having the vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine will reduce the chance of you becoming severely unwell from COVID-19 this winter. It may take a few days for your body to build up some extra protection from the vaccine.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but any infection should be less severe.

Missed vaccinations

If you have not been vaccinated before or if you missed a previous booster, you should still go ahead – you will not need another dose.

If you are unwell on the day of your vaccination

If you are unwell, wait until you have recovered to have your vaccine. There is no need to wait 4 weeks after having had COVID-19, provided you are well. You should not attend a vaccine appointment if you think you could be infectious to others.

Further information

You can read the following COVID-19 guides for more information:

Visit Getting a COVID-19 vaccine on NHS.UK.

Read the product information leaflets for the UK recipient of the Pfizer, Moderna or Sanofi vaccines for more details on your vaccine, including possible side effects.