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Booster vaccinations explained

There has been a lot of conversation around booster vaccinations in the media recently, but they are not a new concept. Boosters have been playing an important role in helping to protect people from infectious diseases for a long time. In fact, many of us may have already received one.1


So, what are they?

Boosters are an additional dose of a vaccine that are given to people who have already received an initial vaccine series against an infectious disease.2

As with other types of vaccines, boosters help ‘teach’ our immune systems how to fight off future infection from a particular disease.3

Why do we need them?
Immunity from some vaccines can decrease naturally over time. Boosters help extend immunity offered by the initial vaccine series, to help reduce the risk of serious illness.3

Many of the boosters available today can help extend immunity against multiple diseases with a single injection.4,5

Are booster vaccines given to people because the initial vaccine series isn’t working?
No. Boosters help to ‘boost’ the immunity received from the initial vaccine series. This is standard for many vaccines where the immunity provided decreases over time.

It can help to think of boosters as a way of ‘reminding’ our immune systems about a specific disease so that we can be better protected against it.

Who gets booster vaccinations?
People may be eligible for a booster due to their age, profession or if they have an underlying health condition that can make them more vulnerable to an infectious disease.2

For example, the NHS recommends that children receive a ‘4-in-1 pre-school booster’ which helps to boost protection against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio. During secondary school, the NHS recommends the ‘3-in-1 teenage booster’ which further boosts protection against three of these diseases.6

Boosters can also be given to people who are more likely to encounter an infectious disease, like healthcare workers, or people who are considered more vulnerable to certain diseases, such as the elderly and people who are immunocompromised or pregnant.2

Your doctor will let you know if and when you are eligible for a booster.


  1. Public Health England. Pre-school immunisations. Last accessed: February 2023.

  2. WebMD. What Are Booster Shots? Last accessed: February 2023.

  3. CDC. Understanding How Vaccines Work. Last accessed: February 2023.

  4. CDC. Combination Vaccines. Last accessed: February 2023.

  5. Oxford Vaccine Group. Pre-school Booster. Last accessed: February 2023.

  6. NHS. NHS vaccinations and when to have them. Last accessed: February 2023.


PP-UNP-GBR-3304 / February 2023
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