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 over 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 hospitalisation 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 behavioural 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 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.