1st December 2021

Across the UK, people with Addison’s and adrenal insufficiency who’ve already been fully vaccinated are being offered a COVID-19 booster jab. But what does it feel like to receive the booster vaccine or "third primary dose" when you have Addison's or adrenal insufficiency?

Read on for more information about the vaccination programme as well as personal experience stories from our community, from those who have already received their booster or third dose. Thank you so much to our community who have shared different experiences with us here. It is great to hear from others to provide reassurance and see how others felt with their Addison’s and adrenal insufficiency so that we can all be prepared.

Read peoples experiences of receiving their booster dose or third dose here

Everyone’s response will be different, as shown in the experiences shared here. But if you were to feel unwell after vaccination, increase your glucocorticoid, take paracetamol to help reduce your symptoms making them easier to manage and drink plenty of fluids as you would normally for sick day rulesSide effects are a sign that your immune system is kicking into action to protect you!

Read peoples experiences of receiving their first and second dose of the vaccine here


How soon will I get my booster jab?

The booster jab rollout started in September 2021 and the NHS is currently working on plans to deliver the booster vaccine programme, incorporating the changes different variants are bringing. How soon you’re offered the booster jab depends partly on when you got fully vaccinated and the NHS has been getting in touch to arrange it. You might be invited to have the annual flu jab at the same time.

Omicron variant and booster jabs

Because of the new Omicron variant of the virus, UK government advisers have speeded up the booster programme. The booster vaccination programme is now being changed and extended for all people aged 18 and over. They have also confirmed that if you have a “third primary dose” of the vaccine you will be offered a booster jab.

The NHS is currently working on the plans to deliver the below changes to the booster vaccine programme. 

  • Those eligible will only be able to book an appointment for a booster dose if it's been at least 3 months since their second dose of the vaccine. 
  • The booster will be offered to adults in groups of descending age order, with priority given to older adults and those over 16 in groups identified as being at higher risk, including people with Addison’s and adrenal insufficiency.
  • People who are eligible for this will be contacted by the NHS when they are due for their booster appointment.
  • Severely immunosuppressed people will be offered another booster which for some people will be their fourth dose. 

In the meantime, if you are in England and aged 16 or over and living with Addison’s and adrenal insufficiency or another condition that puts you at higher risk, or for all aged 40 and over and received your second vaccine five months ago or longer, booking can be done online.

Book your COVID-19 booster vaccine appointment


Why get a booster jab?

A booster helps to keep up the protection that vaccines give against COVID-19, which decreases over time. That extra protection could be particularly important as we go into the winter months.

The most important way people living with Addison's disease and adrenal insufficiency can lower their risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus is to avoid catching the virus in the first place. The vaccine is the most effective way to prevent infection and that’s why we strongly encourage you to get the vaccine (and keep it boosted!) when you’re offered it. Currently our medics are not aware of any specific side effects that would be unique to people with adrenal insufficiency having a COVID-19 vaccine, in the same way there are no specific concerns about other vaccines. 

Visit our vaccine page for more information


What about the third dose of the vaccine?

Some people with Addison’s and adrenal insufficiency are being offered a “third primary dose” of the COVID-19 vaccine due to other health conditions they also have, or other circumstances such as age. Each person’s risk is different, so everyone needs an individual decision. Please consult your health professional who knows your individual medical circumstances if you need more clarification on whether you fall into this category.

The idea of the third jab is to help people get a bigger immune response to the vaccine – in the way most people get with only two doses. Members of our community who fall into this group have kindly shared their experiences below.

The JCVI is still considering their advice for a separate scheme of booster jabs later on. They're waiting for more research evidence before they give their final advice about who should get those, and when. The good news is that Addison's is specifically mentioned in the JCVI Green Book regarding vaccinations, which you can read more about in the News section here on our website. We hope this provides ​​​​​​​comfort in that Addison's is being full considered at this stage by the JCVI when allocating vaccinations.

Should I increase my glucocorticoid dose before having the COVID-19 booster?

Our Addison's Clinical Advisory Panel (CAP) and Society for Endocrinology have advised that there is no need to routinely increase glucocorticoid dose at the time of vaccination if you have no significant symptoms. However if you are particularly anxious or stressed before your vaccine, this could "use up" your cortisol so you should up-dose in response to how you feel. It's different for everyone, as everybody is different - so please listen to your body and do what is right for you.

Personal Stories

Thank you to our members who have got in touch to share their experiences. Please scroll down to read these different experiences.

Naminder's Experience: Booster vaccine.

When I was offered the booster vaccine, over 6 months after the second dose, I didn't hesitate to book the appointment. Having Addison's disease, I wanted to protect myself (and others) as much as possible from COVID-19.

The only side effects this time were a sore arm and some redness around the site and these wore off after about 3 days. I didn't take any extra hydrocortisone this time, as I didn't feel the need after the second dose.

I'm really grateful for all three doses, but I'll still take all possible precautions to guard against COVID. Let's get vaccinated everyone!”

Pippa's Experience: Booster vaccine. ADSHG Digital Communications & Engagement Officer 

"The actual booster didn't sting at all and I felt a lot better following the booster in comparison to how I felt with the first two vaccines. I had two days of feeling like I had flu. My arm did now hurt but the biggest symptom was that crushing "Addison's" fatigue (which if you know the condition you know how that is not normal tired!) I increased my steroid dose by half for the rest of the week and I'm lucky to be able to work from home so I had a lot of early nights to stay rested. This whole time I kept up the paracetamol as well and this helped.

I always react like this to "bugs" and general illness. I felt really grotty but the whole time I was thinking "Wow if this is how my body reacts to the vaccine, I dread to think how my body would react to COVID-19! I'm so grateful to the NHS staff working so hard. Thank you everybody!"

Deana's Experience: Booster vaccine. Founder & Patron of the ADSHG.

“I had my booster nearly two weeks ago, apart from just not feeling 100% the next day all was fine. I’d had my flu jab the week before so I am all set for the winter. Just hope the rising costs of heating do not rise too high!”

Peter's Experience: Booster vaccine & flu jab.

“I’ve now had my COVID booster jab (Pfizer) and my seasonal flu jab. I suffered no side effects apart from a headache for about a day. I did increase my hydrocortisone the day before and continued for a day afterwards - I have Addison’s disease and hypothyroidism.”

June's Experience: Third Dose of the COVID vaccine.

“As with all vaccines I've had with the third dose of the COVID vaccine I had an aching and lumpy arm, heavy legs, headache, and exhaustion.

If the symptoms of the jab were grotty, I can't begin to imagine how bad the virus would be without it.”

Vick's Experience: Booster vaccine. ADSHG Operations Manager.

Following having a fluey response to both my Astrazenica jabs, I didn't know what to expect with the Pfizer booster. I have Addison's disease and diabetes type one along with other autoimmune conditions. My appointment was first thing in the morning this time. Previously they had been later in the day and I found that I woke with symptoms the next morning.

With the Pfizer I felt fine all day then when I woke the following day I could certainly feel I'd had the jab - sore arm and a bit of a red bump on the jab site. I felt a bit tired, had a headache on and off, but overall it was a more pleasant experience than previous times. With all the covid jabs I've had, I've not needed to take the step of applying sick day rules or increase my steroids - we're all different though aren't we. Wishing everyone well with their boosters.”

Gwynie's Experience:Booster vaccine & flu jab.

“I had the Pfizer COVID Booster and the flu vaccine, each was done in different arms. Apart from a little bit of soreness next day, at the injection sites, I had no side effects at all. I would definitely recommend everyone gets their jabs done, as someone with Addison’s the alternative doesn't bare thinking about.”

Julie's Experience: Third Dose of the COVID vaccine.

I received my 'third dose' Pfizer vaccine last week. It all went smoothly and I had minimal symptoms afterwards - the typical sore arm, slight nausea and some tiredness. The symptoms were about the same as after my first and second dose. I increased my steroids slightly for 24 hours after the jab. I feel relieved that I now have some extra protection going into the winter months.”

Jen's Experience: Booster vaccine.

“I'm pleased to say that receiving the booster vaccination was both painless and quick, with barely a sore arm to show for it! The team of vaccinators and volunteers at our local health centre have been extremely well organised, throughout the vaccination roll out.

Last weekend they jabbed just under a thousand people and remained remarkably cheerful, despite the torrential rain!”

More information

The NHS is making plans to deliver the booster programme - but the exact speed of the rollout will vary across the UK. They will be in touch to arrange appointments. But in some parts of the UK, some people can book online or go to a "walk-in" centre. Use the links below to see the latest on how to get the booster where you are. 

Have you received the vaccine? Sharing your experience can help others with Addison's and adrenal insufficiency. Please get in touch if you would like to share with your experience.

Are you a member of our charity? Whether you're newly diagnosed or have lived with the condition for years - please join our community and support our cause! You'll receive the latest expert advice, guidance and ADSHG news, whilst being part of our inspiring and supportive community.

Join the ADSHG

Say hello! Follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedIn and YouTube.