Covid-19 remains highly infectious and is spreading fast, so getting a booster vaccine is essential to gain adequate protection against catching Omicron.
That said, there is still a sizeable minority of people who have not yet taken up the offer of a free, safe and easy vaccine.
Misconceptions about the protection two vaccine doses offer (much less than an additional booster provides) and confusion about how long to wait between doses means there are people who could and should be vaccinated but are not.
Fears about the impact during pregnancy, or a phobia of needles, has also put some people off. But the vaccines are proven to be safe and effective, and with the significant benefits they offer in terms of reduced chances of hospitalization and death from coronavirus, it is important that as many people as possible take up the offer of a jab.
For Toyin Olaniyan, a 43-year-old senior project manager who lives in Streatham, south London, it was a fear of needles that meant she was initially apprehensive about getting vaccinated.
“I’ve always struggled with the idea of needles, and at times that fear can be really crippling,” she said.
“I feel anxious and unable to relax for days before. My heart starts beating faster and my body becomes very tense. Once in the chair, I am always close to tears and start shaking. I can’t look at the needle.”
But having considered the significant benefits the vaccine provided, both for herself and her friends and family, Toyin overcame that fear.
“It wasn’t easy overcoming my anxiety, but I knew that getting vaccinated was the right thing to do,” she said.
“This is about keeping me safe, and about keeping loved ones safe, too. My parents are both in their 70s, and live in the same house as my sister, 38, and her twin daughters, aged 14. As much as anything, I did it for them.”
Shortly after having a booster you are at least 85 per cent less likely to end up in hospital than if you are unvaccinated.
If you haven’t had your booster, then go to the NHS website to book an appointment or find your local walk-in vaccination centre.
Emma-Jane Taylor, a 49-year-old personal development mentor and corporate behavioral change trainer from Oxfordshire, was initially extremely reluctant to be vaccinated.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t think I should do it, I was just nervous about what the possible risks were,” she explained.
“One thing that did change my thought process significantly was when a good friend of mine, who at the time was working at AstraZeneca said ‘you know they have been working on this vaccine for years, just needed to tweak to get the right formula’ . That was huge for me.”
This was because scientists have been developing vaccines for other common coronaviruses (such as cold and flu), although the latest vaccines have had to be adapted specifically for Covid-19.
She added: “When I got to my appointment, I was really nervous. I didn’t sleep the night before and as I stood in the queue I kept hoping the doors would close and we would have to make another appointment for another day. Everyone in front was going in and out within seconds – the pressure felt immense.”
Emma-Jane added: “When they called my name I nervously went forward into the room, tears in my eyes and my legs trembling. The nurse was lovely. I actually think it was a doctor back from retirement doing mine. She and her assistant de ella could clearly see my fear and told me that it was entirely my decision if I did have the vaccination.
“My partner Mark was waiting outside for me, I think he would have been disappointed if I hadn’t had the vaccine that day, even though he was understanding of my fear.
“My biggest reason for getting the vaccine was for my parents, and the good of others.”
Rhian Thompson, 32 and from Hertfordshire, was pregnant when the time came to have her vaccine.
She was initially hesitant but changed her mind after finding out more about the effects of the jab.
“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 on a foetus when it couldn’t possibly have been tested on someone pregnant through to having given birth because of the timelines,” she said.
“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.
“I tried to get different opinions. A lot of people said: ‘Don’t worry, the baby’s not going to get Covid,’ but that wasn’t my issue at all. I was more concerned about the long-term effect on the baby.
“But then I came across information from Pregnant Then Screwed and they had an immunologist who specializes in pregnancy, Dr Victoria Male, who gave such clear advice. That gave me the confidence to go for it and I went to have my first vaccine in July. I was due to have my second in October, but coincidentally I went into early labor on that day.
“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.”
Being pregnant means a greater risk of getting seriously ill with Covid, which increases the chances of the baby being born prematurely, or even being stillborn.
The vaccine is the best way to protect expectant mothers and their babies and Covid-19 jabs are safe for pregnant women and are recommended in pregnancy.
In England, you can book your vaccine 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.