If you have a severe mental illness, it’s time to get your COVID-19 autumn booster vaccination 

If you or someone you care for has a severe mental illness (SMI), you are eligible for a free COVID-19 autumn booster vaccination. 

The vaccine is quick, safe, and effective, and is the best way of protecting vulnerable people and their carers from the COVID-19 virus this winter. 

Individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment are now being invited for a free booster, whatever their age, because they are at greater risk from the virus.  

People who care for them – whether professionally or in an unpaid/family carer role – are also eligible and we urge you to come forward as soon as possible. 

People with SMI should receive an invitation from their GP to get their COVID-19 vaccine.  When you get your letter, please do come forward for your vital jab. You might also receive a letter from the National Booking Service or a text from ‘NHSvaccine’ inviting you to book your vaccination online or by phoning 119. This is a safe way to book your COVID-19 vaccination at a local centre or pharmacy if you wish. 

If you are not sure whether you have an SMI which falls within the official definition above, contact your GP or mental health team to discuss your condition and vaccination. 

GPs are being asked to keep prioritising people with SMI and apply applying an inclusive approach to defining SMI. For instance, this could include people who are severely unwell with an eating disorder (who have a high or low BMI), or a diagnosis of personality disorder. 

If you have any concerns about the vaccine, talk to your GP, mental health team or visit the NHS website for further information.   

If you are in contact with a mental health team, they will be able to support you if needed Feel free to ask questions about the vaccination and how to access it. 

  • When you book your vaccination, you should let the member of staff know if there are any reasonable adjustments you need to help you feel at ease. These could include: a longer appointment time or one later in the day 
  • somewhere quiet to sit while you wait for your appointment 
  • support/additional reassurance if you are afraid of needles  
  • asking if a carer/friend/your peer support worker could accompany you to your vaccination appointment 

You should also tell them if you are housebound or unable to travel to a vaccination clinic, or if you need a sign language service.  

Claire Murdoch

Claire Murdoch is NHS England’s National Mental Health Director.

She has been a registered mental health nurse for 34 years, and joined NHS England in April 2016.

She is also Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. With a wealth of clinical and leadership experience she is leading delivery of the national mental health programme.