Coronavirus (Covid) vaccines and dementia

Our information gives a summary of what people affected by dementia need to know about the Covid vaccines, including consenting to have a vaccine.

1. Should people affected by dementia have the Covid vaccine?

Vaccines are the best way to protect people affected by dementia from coronavirus.

People who have been vaccinated are much less likely to become seriously ill. 

A person can have the vaccine no matter what medicines they are taking for their dementia. All brands of Covid vaccine licensed in the UK are effective and suitable for people with dementia.

It is a person’s choice whether or not to have the vaccine, but it is strongly recommended.

For information about the safety and side effects of the Covid vaccines, visit the NHS website.

2. Can the Covid vaccine make dementia worse?

There is no evidence that any of the coronavirus vaccines make dementia worse.

There is also no evidence that the coronavirus vaccine can make someone who doesn’t have dementia more likely to develop the condition. 

Expert viewpoint

Read what doctors at the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) say about COVID vaccination for older people.

BGS vaccine advice

3. Who can have the coronavirus vaccines?

Everyone aged 5 and over can get a first and second dose of the Covid vaccine. These are known as primary doses. Some people with severely weakened immune systems will need three vaccines as their primary doses.

After a person has had their primary doses, they may be eligible for booster vaccines. A booster is another dose of vaccine to keep protecting a person from Covid. It should be given at least three months after the last vaccine dose. First boosters were given in Spring 2022 for people aged 16 years old and over, plus at-risk children aged 12 to 15 years old.

The autumn 2022 booster will be made available to people who are:

  • aged 50 or over
  • aged 5 or over who have a weakened immune system 
  • aged 5 or over who live with someone with a weakened immune system
  • pregnant
  • frontline health or social care workers
  • living or working in a care home for older adults
  • aged over 16 and are carers.

The most vulnerable people will be offered their booster first. Your GP or hospital specialist will write to you inviting you to book a booster when it is your turn. You will need to bring this letter with you to your appointment.

If you think you're eligible for a booster but you haven’t been contacted or don’t have a suitable letter, contact your GP or hospital specialist. 

Use the NHS website to book your coronavirus vaccine, manage an appointment and find out more information.

4. Consent to Covid vaccination

Some people living with dementia will have lost the ability to decide whether to have the vaccine or not.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) is the law in England and Wales that protects people who lack capacity to make a decision.

If the person still has mental capacity to decide

The MCA says that it must be assumed that the person has capacity (is able) to decide unless we have reasonable doubt. If there is reason to doubt their capacity, this needs to be assessed by an appropriate person, often their GP.

The person with dementia should have as much support as possible to make their own decision. If they have capacity, they can choose whether to have the vaccine or not. Their decision must be respected, even if it seems unwise to others.

In order for the person to give informed consent, their health professional should explain the benefits, risks and side-effects of the vaccine clearly. The professional must communicate in the way that works best for the person and consider how quickly or reliably they are able to process the information.

Our dementia advisers are here for you.

If the person no longer has mental capacity to decide

The person with dementia may need support to make decisions. This could mean communicating with them at a time when they are most alert, and giving them information in a way they can understand.

If the person does not have mental capacity to make the decision themselves, then a ‘best interests’ decision about vaccination will need to be made on their behalf. Best interests under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 involves looking at what the person themselves would have wanted if they were able to decide. The person should still be involved as much as they can. 

If the person with dementia has appointed an attorney for health and welfare, they will be responsible for the decision, in consultation with professionals.

Otherwise, the decision will be made by health professionals who will also consult with the people closest to the person with dementia. The best interests decision-making must focus on the individual person and include looking at the risks and benefits of them having or not having the vaccine.

The best interests decision must also take into account the person’s past and present wishes and feelings. For example, have they previously held strong views against vaccines or have they tended to follow the advice of the doctor? Have they always been public-spirited, thinking about the well-being of others? 

There may be other benefits to the person from vaccination in the future, such as greater freedom to travel or engage in activities. 

Care homes may have an interest in all its residents being vaccinated but must not exert undue influence or seek to override a best interests decision.

Book a coronavirus vaccination

Visit the NHS website to book your Covid vaccine, or manage an appointment.

Book now
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