COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs

[Updated: 18/03/2024]

COVID-19 Booster

When should I get my next COVID-19 booster?

The spring 2024 booster programme begins soon. For most people who are eligible, vaccination will begin from 22 April 2024

Vaccination of eligible housebound patients or people in adult care homes will begin earlier, from 15 April 2024.  

If you are eligible, you can be offered the booster if it is at least 3 months since your last COVID-19 vaccine.  

COVID-19 vaccines are available until 30 June

How can I get a booster? 

In England, Scotland and Wales, the NHS will contact patients when it’s their turn to be vaccinated.   

In England you may also be able to get a COVID-19 vaccination without an appointment by visiting a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site. You can search online to find a site near you.  

In Northern Ireland, people with weakened immune systems should contact their GP surgery or their community pharmacist to get a booster.   

Who is eligible for a booster? 

The spring 2024 booster programme will be open to the following groups:  

  • All adults aged 75 years and over 
  • People aged 6 months and over with a weakened immune system   
  • Residents in care homes for older adults   

Why should I get another booster? 

We encourage everyone who is eligible to take up the offer of all booster vaccines.  

Boosters are given to maintain the best possible protection against COVID-19. 

The protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines fades slowly over time. Booster doses help top-up the antibody levels, making sure you have the best possible protection. This means the more recently you have been vaccinated, the better protected you are. 

Evidence also shows that booster doses can improve the overall response to vaccines, eliciting an immune response in people who previously had no or low response to previous doses. 

New variants of COVID-19 continue to develop, and although the current circulating variants are not of concern at the moment, people who are eligible are encouraged to have their COVID-19 booster as soon as possible. 

How many COVID-19 vaccine doses do I need to have? 

As of spring 2024, the NHS will have offered people with weakened immune systems at least 9 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (3 primary doses and 6 boosters) since 2020. 

If you have not received all vaccine doses, this does not affect the effectiveness of your next vaccine or booster. 

The most important thing is to keep up to date with your boosters, so book your next dose to make sure you have the best possible protection. 

Will I receive the same vaccine?  

There are a few different approved COVID19 vaccinations in use this spring. Which you will be given will depend on local supplies. Getting a vaccine quickly is much more important in terms of protecting you than which type of vaccine you get. 

I think I am behind on my vaccines, what do I do? 

If people are eligible, they can get a spring 2024 booster no matter where they are on the vaccine schedule. 

If you are offered an appointment as part of the current booster programme by the NHS or local health board, all you need to do is book and/or attend the appointment. 

You can also attend a walk-in clinic. If you choose to do this, make sure you take evidence that you have a weakened immune system with you. 

If you are unsure about when you should get your next vaccine, ask your healthcare team for more information. 

HDT-SCT 

Will I need to be re-vaccinated after high-dose therapy and stem cell transplantation

Advice from the British Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Vaccination Sub-Committee is that patients who have received a COVID-19 vaccine before HDT-SCT should be considered non-vaccinated after their HDT-SCT and, therefore, should be re-vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Re-vaccination should be considered 2–6 months following HDT-SCT.  

Patients who are concerned about their vaccines should talk to their healthcare team when they get their vaccination letter. They will be able to tell you if the timing of the vaccine fits with your ongoing treatment.  

Vaccine safety  

How do the vaccines work? 

Vaccines work by causing your body to have an immune response against a specific infection without causing the infection itself. Your body remembers this response when it comes into contact with the infection, making it easier for your body to fight it off. 

The vaccines currently available in the UK for COVID-19 work in different ways. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines – mRNA vaccines: 

  • A copy of a gene from the coronavirus is packaged into very small fat droplets 
  • These droplets are absorbed by the body’s cells and trigger an immune response 
  • The gene cannot replicate itself so it is safe for people with weakened immune systems 
  • These are suitable for myeloma patients 

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Janssen-Johnson & Johnson – viral vector vaccines: 

  • A copy of a gene from the coronavirus is put into a harmless weakened adenovirus (a type of virus) that usually causes the common cold 
  • The adenovirus is absorbed by the body’s cells and triggers an immune response 
  • The virus cannot replicate within the body so it is safe for people with a weakened immune system 
  • These are suitable for myeloma patients 

Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause COVID-19 infection? 

No. The vaccines don’t contain any ‘live’ COVID-19 virus, therefore, you can’t develop COVID-19 from the COVID-19 vaccines. 

Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause side effects? 

Like all other vaccines and medicines, the COVID-19 vaccine can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. 

Most side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are mild and shouldn’t last longer than a week. 

Common side effects include: 

  • Pain, tenderness, or redness where the needle went in 
  • Flu-like symptoms (runny nose, cough, sore throat) 
  • Feeling tired 
  • A headache 
  • Feeling achy 
  • Fever and/or chills 
  • Feeling or being sick 

If you are concerned about any side effects, talk to your GP, haematologist or clinical nurse specialist. 

Note: Patients on immunosuppressive treatment or recovering from high-dose therapy and stem cell transplantation (HDT-SCT) have a higher risk of infection (e.g. pneumonia). Some of the side effects caused by the COVID-19 vaccine are similar to signs of an underlying infection. Therefore, if you develop a high temperature and think it might be caused by an underlying infection you should contact your healthcare team. 

Does the vaccine prevent transmission? 

Research looking at how vaccines impact transmission rates is ongoing. 

In April, Public Health England released data about the impact one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine had on transmission rates. This data showed that those who became infected with COVID-19 three weeks after receiving one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine were between 38% and 49% less likely to pass the virus on to their household contacts than those who were unvaccinated. 

This suggests that the vaccines do reduce the transmission of the virus and that vaccinating carers, family and friends helps further protect myeloma patients from COVID-19. 

Vaccines and myeloma 

Do the COVID-19 vaccines work for myeloma patients? 

The COVID-19 vaccines should give myeloma patients some protection against COVID-19. 

However, we know that medications, immune function, and pre-existing health conditions can affect how some vaccines work. Therefore, the COVID-19 vaccine may not be fully effective in patients with weakened immune systems or people having treatment that weakens the immune system. Although the vaccine might not be fully effective in some myeloma patients, it is still important to be vaccinated as it will provide some protection against severe illness due to COVID-19. 

Following vaccination, patients should continue to follow infection prevention measures, such as frequent hand washing and social distancing, unless told otherwise by their doctor. 

You can learn more about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine in our video

Is there any research showing how well the COVID-19 vaccines work for myeloma patients? 

Research looking at how well COVID-19 vaccines work for myeloma patients is ongoing. So far, only data about how well myeloma patients respond to the first two doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been published. The studies (the Royal Marsden/Institute of Cancer Research study and the PREPARE study) suggest that 60-70% of myeloma patients respond to the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This tells us that most myeloma patients can and do respond to COVID-19 vaccines. 

The results from the second release of the PREPARE study revealed that 93% of 214 myeloma patients had an antibody response after receiving two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This indicates that at least two doses are needed to give myeloma patients protection against COVID-19. 

However, more research is required to determine how well patients respond to three primary doses of the vaccine and the level of protection myeloma patients get from the vaccine. To help answer these questions Myeloma UK has joined the Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative. 

You can learn more about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine in our video

Do COVID-19 vaccines affect paraprotein or free light chain levels? 

There is no evidence that any of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK would cause an increase in paraprotein or free light chain levels. This includes the Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Janssen-Johnson & Johnson vaccines. 

The vaccines have been rigorously tested in clinical trials and scientifically evaluated for patient safety by regulatory authorities before they were approved for use. 

Is one vaccine better than the other for myeloma patients? 

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) does not advise a preference for either vaccine in any specific group of people. This is because there is insufficient data to directly compare the vaccines. The clinical trials have different designs (e.g. differences in who took part, where and when they were carried out and how effectiveness was measured) and there are no clinical trials directly comparing vaccines. All approved vaccines give very high protection against severe illness due to COVID-19. 

If you have more questions about COVID-19 and vaccines, get in touch with us via the Infoline on 0800 980 3332 (UK) or 1800 937 773 (Ireland) or by emailing askthenurse@myeloma.org.uk, or talk to your clinical team who will be able to provide advice specific to your circumstances. 

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