A COVID-19 booster vaccination is an extra dose of vaccine that is administered after a longer period, after the basic series of COVID-19 vaccinations has been completed. This booster vaccination is intended to give an extra ‘boost’ that can improve the effectiveness of the primary vaccination series. A booster jab is needed if the protective effect of the primary course of vaccines decreases too much over time, or if vaccinations prove to be less effective in protecting against new variants of a virus, such as the Omicron variant.

Advisory reports of the Health Council of the Netherlands

When to get the booster

You can get the COVID-19 booster vaccination from 3 months after the last vaccination in their basic series of COVID-19 vaccinations. People who had COVID-19 after their last vaccination can get the COVID-19 booster vaccination from 3 months after they had COVID.

Timeline

All adults in the Netherlands will be able to get a booster jab. Based on the advisory reports of the Health Council of the Netherlands, the booster vaccination will be offered starting with people aged 60 and over, people living in residential care institutions and people with Down syndrome.

Care workers will also be among the first to be offered a booster vaccination. This is to prevent them from falling ill, which would put more pressure on the healthcare system. 

Children and adolescents aged 12 - 18 years

No booster vaccination is available for the under-18 age groups at this time. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) still needs to review whether the COVID-19 vaccines are also suitable for use as a booster dose for the age group of 12-18 years. In addition, the Health Council of the Netherlands still has to issue an advisory opinion. EMA and the Health Council are expected to issue their advisory opinions in late January.

If you are eligible you can make an appointment online via www.coronavaccinatie-afspraak.nl.

More information on scheduling and invitations at Government.nl

More information about the Omicron variant

FAQ COVID-19 booster vaccination

Does the booster vaccination provide sufficient protection against the Omicron variant?

If the basic series of COVID-19 vaccinations was completed some time ago, the immune response that you built up from vaccination is less likely to recognise the Omicron variant. This makes it easier for Omicron to infect cells in your body. The booster vaccination helps your body produce many additional antibodies within a short time frame. These high levels of antibodies make it possible for your immune system to recognise Omicron and prevent infection.

There is also a second layer of protection: cellular defence. It cleans up cells that do become infected. This protective layer is more stable and less easily fooled by the mutations in the Omicron variant. Thanks to cellular defence, the vaccines are still expected to provide sufficient protection against serious illness (hospital and ICU admission) due to Omicron. This is not completely certain yet, since insufficient data is available at this time.

What we do know is that a booster jab provides a quick improvement in immunity, both by raising antibody levels to recognise the virus and by boosting the cellular defence system, restoring protection against Omicron. Even then, protection is still lower compared to the Delta variant, but much better.

Will the booster vaccination be modified based on the Omicron variant? Will everyone have to be vaccinated again after that?

Pharmaceutical companies immediately started designing and testing vaccines adapted to the Omicron variant. Whether these new vaccines are actually used will depend on how well the existing vaccines protect against serious illness caused by the Omicron and on how the virus develops.

Which vaccine will be used for the booster jab?

An mRNA vaccine will be used for the booster vaccination: Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna

For the booster vaccination, it does not matter which type of vaccine was received for the first and second vaccination. It is not possible to choose which vaccine. Based on the available supplies, the following distribution has been chosen:

  • People aged 18-30 years will preferably receive a booster with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. *
  • People aged 45-50 years and older will preferably receive a booster with the Moderna vaccine.**

*Pfizer/BioNTech is the best choice for young people. Myocarditis has been observed as a very rare side-effect after mRNA vaccination; it occurs less often than 1 per 10,000 doses. This very rare side-effect is mainly seen at younger ages, in men, and after the second mRNA vaccination. Although it is still rare, research shows that this side-effect was reported 3-5 times less often after vaccination with Pfizer/BioNTech than with Moderna in people under 30 years old.
** People aged 45-50 years and older may benefit slightly more from Moderna, because research shows that this vaccine induces a better immune response. In addition, the rare side-effect of myocarditis occurs less frequently in people over 30 years old.

The supplies of the Moderna vaccine are shrinking. As a result, Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs) may deviate from the distribution described here.

Why is a half-dose used for the Moderna booster vaccination?

It is not uncommon to use a smaller dose for a booster vaccination than for the basic series.
When that happens, it is because a smaller dose is sufficient for the immune system to be boosted. In this case, a half-dose is enough to achieve a good immune response. A half-dose may also cause fewer side-effects.

In the clinical trials for the Moderna booster vaccination, a half-dose (of 50 micrograms) was given 6 to 8 months after the basic series. The results showed that it provided a good boost to the immune system. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) then approved the booster vaccination with a half-dose of Moderna (and only for that half-dose).
The clinical trials for Pfizer only looked at a booster vaccination with the same dose (30 micrograms). This dose has been approved by the EMA for use in the booster campaign. There are no research results available on whether a lower dose of Pfizer would provide the same strong immune response in a booster vaccination.

Is it safe to get the booster vaccination with a different brand of vaccine?

Both of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) can be used for the booster vaccination. It does not matter which vaccine was used for previous vaccinations: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Janssen.
A booster vaccination with a different brand than the first or second vaccination (known as combined vaccination) is not yet officially included in the package leaflets for the vaccines and in the EMA marketing authorisation. However, current research indicates that there is no difference in effectiveness or side-effects. The Health Council of the Netherlands has therefore advised that the vaccines can be combined for the booster vaccination. 

I had COVID-19 and have been vaccinated twice. Do I still need to get a booster jab?

Even if you have had COVID-19, you will receive an invitation for a booster jab. 
Did you have COVID-19 after your last vaccination?  That also has a booster effect. Then you need to wait 3 months before getting a booster vaccination. 

I had one vaccination, and then I had COVID-19. Will I also get a booster jab?

Only if you had Janssen, which is a single-dose vaccine. If you had COVID-19 after your first vaccination with one of the other vaccines, you have not yet received the entire basic series of the vaccines. That means you still need to get your second vaccination. After that, you need to wait 3 months before getting a booster vaccination.

How long does it take for the booster vaccination to become effective?

The booster vaccination is effective 7 days after vaccination.

Are you unable to travel to a GGD vaccination site on your own or with assistance?

Then you will receive an additional notice from your GP for vaccination at home.

What is the difference between a booster jab and a third vaccination?

A third vaccination can ensure that people who are insufficiently protected after two vaccinations still achieve better protection (‘building up an immune response’). For these people, this third vaccination is considered an additional part of the primary course of vaccinations, which consists of 1 or 2 vaccinations for most other people.

This is not the same as a booster vaccination. A booster gives an extra ‘boost’ to the immune system. It is intended is for people who initially built up sufficient protection after one or two vaccinations, but whose protection waned over time after that. 

The third vaccination is part of the basic series of COVID-19 vaccinations. The third vaccination is not a booster vaccination, and will not be registered as such. There must be 3 months between the third vaccination and the booster vaccination.

How much time should there be between my last vaccination and the booster?

There must be at least 3 months between your last vaccination and the booster vaccination. Otherwise the booster will not work properly. The Netherlands had initially scheduled a period of 6 months between the basic series of COVID-19 vaccinations and the booster vaccination. Due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, this interval has now been shortened to 3 months. This is so more people can get a booster vaccination quickly. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) have jointly determined that the interval can be reduced to 3 months if this is necessary in the interest of public health. This is now the case in the Netherlands.
After your last vaccination, did you receive a third vaccination, or did you have COVID-19? That also has a booster effect. Then you need to wait 3 months before getting the booster vaccination.

How much time should there be between the booster jab and the flu jab?

Did you get the flu jab first? Then you should wait at least 1 week before getting the COVID-19 vaccination. Did you get the COVID-19 vaccination first? Then you should wait at least 2 weeks before getting the flu jab. For logistical reasons, the GGD uses a waiting period of 2 weeks regardless of which vaccination came first.

What are the possible side-effects of a booster jab?

Side-effects may occur after a booster vaccination, just the same as after the first and second vaccination. The Pharmacovigilance Centre Lareb monitors side-effects and publishes the data on its website. 

Can we skip that 15-minute waiting period after receiving the vaccination?

The 15-minute waiting period (observation time) is recommended by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the WHO Strategic Advisory Group on Immunization (SAGE) for all COVID-19 vaccines, and that includes the booster vaccination. The waiting period is also specified in the package leaflets for the vaccines. Although such cases are very rare, it is possible for life-threatening anaphylactic reactions and severe allergic reactions to occur after vaccination, which require immediate medical intervention.  Allergic reactions occur up to 10 times more frequently after the COVID-19 vaccinations than what we are used to seeing after many other vaccinations. These reactions may occur less frequently after the second or third vaccination with the same vaccine. Even so, the observation time is still recommended.

Can I also get Janssen as a booster?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has authorised the use of the Janssen vaccine for booster vaccination. The Health Council of the Netherlands has recommended that the Janssen vaccine should only be used for the booster in certain exceptional situations – for example, for special groups that are difficult to reach, or if people are not allowed to receive an mRNA vaccine.

I had a possible allergic reaction to my last COVID-19 vaccination. Can I get the booster vaccination?

Please contact your GP. The GP may decide to give you a referral to an allergist, depending on the nature of the reaction that occurred during your last vaccination. The GP may also conclude that you can simply get a booster vaccination from the Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs). 
If you are referred to an allergist, that specialist will assess whether you can get a booster vaccination and if so, where: in hospital or from the GGD. 

I am pregnant. Should I get a booster vaccination now?

If you are pregnant, you can still get the booster vaccination if you are invited to do so. As a pregnant woman, you do have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. This can have consequences for mother and child. The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) used in the basic series have been found to be safe for pregnant women. Side-effects after the booster dose are not expected to be more frequent or more severe than after the basic series of mRNA vaccines.

I received the booster vaccination. The sticker in my vaccination booklet has an expiry date that has already passed. Is that a problem?

No, that is not a problem. The vaccine that you received was not past its expiry date. In September, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved an extension of the shelf-life for the COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty) from 6 to 9 months (when stored at -60 to -90 degrees Celsius). In some GGD regions, the stickers placed in the vaccination booklets still list the old expiry date, from before the extension. This may cause confusion among people who have been vaccinated. Despite the date listed on the older stickers, the vaccines that were administered are good and safe, and can still be used.