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Some companies, including Next and Ikea, have cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who have to self-isolate after spending time with someone with Covid.

Across the UK, vaccinated close contacts no longer have to quarantine – unless they also test positive.

Is the Covid vaccine compulsory?

For most people in the UK, the Covid vaccine is not mandatory.

However, all front-line NHS staff in England (with some exceptions) must be fully vaccinated by 1 April.

Workers will receive only the statutory-sick-pay (SSP) minimum, £96.35 a week, unless there are mitigating circumstances.

Unvaccinated staff who test positive for the virus will still receive full sick pay, however.

Wessex Water has also said workers with no medical reason for being unvaccinated – or scheduled appointment – will receive only the statutory amount if they have to isolate because of close contact.

Many foreign countries are restricting entry to vaccinated travellers or imposing restrictions on those who are not.

When can I have a booster?

In England boosters are available to all over-18s three months after their second dose – but appointments can be booked after two months.

In Scotland boosters can be booked online.

In Wales people should wait to be invited, with older and higher-risk people being prioritised.

In Northern Ireland over 18 to 29 can go to walk-in hubs, and make booster appointments.

Why do I need a booster?

Early studies from UK researchers suggest a booster vaccine – on top of the first two jabs – will provide 80-85% protection against Omicron (compared with 97% against Delta).

More antibodies are developed thanks to the booster, giving the body stronger defences against the virus.

It makes it harder for Omicron to infect the body, although current vaccines are still not a perfect match.

What vaccine will I get for my booster?

Your booster will be a single dose of either Pfizer or Moderna – regardless of which vaccine you received before.

If you have recently tested positive for Covid, you should wait four weeks from the date of the test before having your booster.

You shouldn’t have the booster if you have a severe illness or high fever, but Pfizer and Moderna say a mild fever or a cold are not reasons to delay.

The vaccines do not give you an infection, and cannot cause positive results on a lateral flow or PCR test.

Which children are being vaccinated?

A low-dose version of the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for five to 11-year-olds with health conditions that put them at greater risk from catching Covid.

Primary school children who live with clinically vulnerable adults should also be offered a jab, government vaccine advisers said.

It is not yet clear when children will get the doses.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation also recommended that normal booster dose should be offered to children aged:

  • 16 and 17
  • 12 to 15 if they are in an at-risk group or live with someone who is immunosuppressed
  • 12 to 15 who have a severely weakened immune system, who should get four doses

All children aged 12 and over are being offered two doses of the Pfizer jab. They can usually have a second dose 12 weeks after the first.

Children who are not considered to be at high risk from Covid should wait 12 weeks after a positive Covid test before having the vaccine.

What if I haven’t had my first or second vaccine?

You can still book your first or second jab. You need to wait eight weeks between the first and second.

What about side effects?

They are part of the body’s normal immune response to vaccines and tend to resolve within a day or two.

Media caption,

Why it is normal for some people to experience short-term side effects from Covid-19 vaccines

And a very small number of people have experienced a severe allergic reaction after the Pfizer vaccine.

You should discuss any existing serious allergies with your healthcare professional before being vaccinated.

www.bbc.co.uk

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