Should I be trying to get a walk-in booster jab in the UK right now?
December 6, 2021 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Have you tried to get a walk-in booster vaccine in the UK, even without a letter of invitation? Let me know how it went, or if this is not worth trying at all.

I live in the UK and received my second dose of AstraZeneca almost seven months ago now. Although I am in my 30s, I was considered 'higher risk' as I have asthma, so I was called for my doses earlier than most others my age.

Now I am waiting for a letter or text message telling me I have been invited to get a booster dose, but none is forthcoming. I called my doctor and apparently I am no longer considered 'higher risk' because that is reserved only for 'severe asthma' now. However, the receptionist vaguely told me I "might be able to go to a walk-in clinic".

It seems you need to wait to receive a letter/text as confirmation of eligibility, which you then present at the walk-in clinic in order to receive a vaccine. I am wondering if I should just take my chances and show up at a clinic, wait in line and hope that they will let me have a vaccine when I get to the front of the queue. Has anyone else in the UK tried this -- did it work?

Of course, if I was rejected at the door, I would be absolutely polite and accepting of that. But I'm wondering if it is worth a try to see what happens? My anxiety is spiking as the holidays draw closer, and my GP talks of a 'backlog' which indicates it could be a while before my hoped-for appointment arrives. I would be happy to schlep on public transport and wait for hours in the cold, if there is a good chance of a vaccine at the end of it. But perhaps this is a fool's errand?
posted by guessthis to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
Best answer: I volunteer in a vaccination centre in London, and we are absolutely taking walk-ins, whether you are clinically vulnerable (which you are) or not: as long as you had your second jab before 5 September, you can come in. We don't ask to see paperwork.

There is backlog at local chemists, as far as I can tell, but the bigger vaccination centres are absolutely ramping up for the extra demand for boosters. We had about 50 walk-ins this morning and all were accommodated. We have vaccine doses galore and we are delighted to give them to anyone who wants them!
posted by Orkney Vole at 4:44 AM on December 6, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm in Scotland so YMMV, and things seem to be evolving quickly, but - as I understand it, the booster jab is a very specific jab, it's not the same as eg. the first and second jabs still being given out to those who haven't had them yet, or the third jab being given to immunocompromised people.

So you'd first need to establish that the clinic is definitely offering boosters, not the others. Where I am, there are no invitations being sent out for boosters, you have to go online and book them, and they're only currently bookable by the over 40s (and various other risk groups) but that may be different if you're in England.

I think for the "they'll give you one if you stop by" side of things, it can be incredibly variable by location, so other people's knowledge here from other parts of the country might not be super-helpful. If you happen to have an active local social media community somewhere on reddit or facebook or the like, you might get decent local knowledge on this - I've certainly seen it asked on my city's subreddit and being answered by people working at the vaccination centres.
posted by penguin pie at 4:45 AM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: Anecdotally, I have heard from friends and neighbours here in the London adjacent bit of Hertfordshire that a number of our local centres have been doing walk-ins including to people who are not yet eligible by age based on the NHS booking site. At least one person who doesn't have any particular conditions has gotten one and a number of people who like you are in the grey zone of having an articulable and medically plausible reason for priority but not at the top of that list have as well.

I'm going tomorrow morning to try and get mine as a household contract of an immunosuppressed person who got a third dose on that basis so will update thread with my experience after I go.
posted by atrazine at 4:59 AM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: I walked past a local chemist in London today which had a sign up encouraging walk-ins for anyone who had their second jab at least 180 days ago, fwiw.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 5:31 AM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: I live in south west england, due to my age I was invited for my booster shot a month ago. But I can tell you my local chemist has been jammed with walk-ins getting the booster since the news about omicron broke. I would ring any chemist near enough to you to be convenient and ask them if they accept walk-ins.
posted by glasseyes at 5:33 AM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: I haven't but I know someone who did recently - Guy's Hospital, London. Just turned up and got the jab. They had to wait a little while, but it went smoothly.
posted by unicorn chaser at 5:36 AM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: As far as I'm aware it's really just a roll of the dice at the moment. I know people who have been able to have walk-in jabs just fine in your situation and others who have been told to come back once the government has confirmed the rules for people under 50 getting boosters (even at 6+ months).

I would just look up some walk-in centres around your local area and try them. The worst that might happen is you may end up standing in a queue for 45 minutes in the cold and be asked to come back later.
posted by fight or flight at 5:38 AM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: Also for you and other Mefites in the UK, highly recommend using /r/GetJabbed to get an idea of the situation in your local area.
posted by fight or flight at 5:38 AM on December 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

Yeah, worth noting that my anecdotes were pre-omicron and it may well be that things have changed now that a much larger volume of people is turning up at walk-ins.
posted by atrazine at 5:45 AM on December 6, 2021

Best answer: I was eligible a while back but actually went online to book before I got any text or call - I'm sure you've seen it but I used this site - NHS boosters - and it was effectively a walk-in appointment I got. My brother has asthma and was called for his booster a couple of weeks ago, so I'm surprised they are downplaying it now. My appointment was within a day or so of going onto the website.

Also, I've noticed that an empty shop in one of the local town centres has been converted into a walk-in NHS vaccination hub, so I dare say they are now potentially giving boosters too - it might be worth looking locally for a similar set up.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 6:36 AM on December 6, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks all, I am galvanised by the anecdotal evidence and will be finding the nearest walk-in centre to stand outside tomorrow!
posted by guessthis at 9:19 AM on December 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

To add to the (probably useless to you!) anecdata, inspired by this thread I just walked to my nearest pop-up Vaccination Centre to see if they were doing drop-in boosters for the over-40s. Was told that nowhere in my health authority area is, it’s all appointment-only. So it’s definitely different depending on where you are.
posted by penguin pie at 11:18 AM on December 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I went to London today literally for this purpose as I think my local area is still strict. St Thomas' Hospital did me as a walk-in, just took my NHS number and that was that. I found the info on the reddit forum linked above.
posted by Cheerwell Maker at 12:23 PM on December 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Update: Got a Moderna booster today at a walk-in clinic, all they asked me was how many days (was 172) since last one. I'm 36.
posted by atrazine at 11:00 AM on December 8, 2021

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