Omicron and vaccinations: Your questions answered
Confused by what you’re hearing about Omicron or wondering whether you need a COVID vaccine? Read on for answers to some common questions from the Birmingham and Solihull NHS COVID Vaccination Service.
There are no appointments near me, have I missed out?
Everyone over 18 can now get their booster from three months after their second or third primary dose and the national booking service has now opened for 12-15-year olds to get their second COVID-19 jab. This will also be provided in schools.
There are more than 36 clinics across Birmingham and Solihull with more than 40,000 appointments a week available to access via the national booking service as well as access to vaccinations via community pharmacies and GPs – see www.birminghamandsolihullcovidvaccine.nhs.uk/walk-in. New slots are loaded daily so if there are no appointments appearing on a particular day, keep trying as they will show as soon as the system is refreshed.
Walk-ins are available in many locations and these are also shown on the BSol website, however wherever possible we would urge everyone eligible to book their jab via the national booking service:
nhs.uk/covidvaccine or calling the free 119 phone line.
What are Omicron symptoms?
Symptoms of Omicron, especially if you have one or two jabs previously, are most often described by patients as;
- a scratchy/sore throat
- runny nose and sneezing
- head and muscle aches
Omicron is just like a cold so why do we need another jab?
Omicron symptoms seem to be milder than other variants of coronavirus but people can still become very ill and, in some cases, have died after contracting Omicron.
The main concern that younger people who are working, commuting, socialising can have mild symptoms and not recognise they have the virus and pass it to more vulnerable people such as babies, pregnant women and the elderly.
The vast majority of hospitalisations are now of those who are unvaccinated and unfortunately there is no way to know how you will be affected before you get it; even healthy people can suffer tremendously from acute illness or long-term effects known as Long COVID.
The vaccines don’t stop you getting COVID-19 so what’s the point?
No vaccine is 100% effective in stopping a virus however, the stronger our immune response the less severe the symptoms and the less time we will be infectious – this means we reduce the number of people we can potentially pass it on to. The less you cough, sneeze or breathe out virus droplets, the less transmission there is and the quicker we suppress the virus.
Which COVID-19 vaccine will I get?
You will be offered a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. This means your booster dose may be different from the vaccines you had for your first and second doses; this is absolutely fine.
Should I have the vaccine if I’m pregnant?
Yes. The vaccine has been proven in clinical studies to be safe for women and their baby. Just like the flu jab, it’s recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that pregnant women get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to protect them and their baby as soon as possible.
Bottom line – if you struggle to breathe and need to be ventilated, your baby may be deprived of oxygen or develop fetal distress. You are also more likely to need an emergency caesarean to protect your own life. If you catch COVID-19 while you are pregnant you could be putting yourself and your baby at serious risk as the Delta and Omicron variants are more likely to cause moderate or severe complication in pregnancy compared to previous strains and can also be passed on to the baby when it is born. Last year, one in seven pregnant women in hospital with COVID-19 needed intensive care. One in five gave birth prematurely. One in three developed pneumonia.
Where can I find out more?
Birmingham and Solihull Vaccination Programme’s dedicated website provides a range of resources: