General Information On Coronavirus (COVID-19)

*In Autumn 2023, a booster dose of the COVID vaccine will be offered to people at the highest risk of severe illness from the virus. People aged 6 months or over that are immunosuppressed are eligible for the booster, including those that are immunosuppressed due to treatment for conditions such as scleroderma. Find out more details in section 6 of this page.

We know there is a lot of Coronavirus-related information out there, which is being updated constantly so it can be hard to know what to do for the best. Our Facebook Live Coronavirus (COVID-19) Q&A with Professor Del Galdo was organised in April 2020, exclusively for our scleroderma and Raynaud's community. Please click to watch part 1 and part 2


  1. What is COVID-19?
  2. What are the symptoms? What should I do if I develop symptoms?
  3. Getting tested
  4. Can I get contact tracing phone app for COVID-19?
  5. 2022 Autumn & Winter booster vaccines
  6. 2023 Spring COVID boosters

1. What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a strain of coronavirus which first emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019. It affects your lungs and airways, which for some people only causes mild symptoms, whilst in others it may cause more severe illness requiring in some cases hospitalisation and/ or death.  

2. What are the symptoms? What should I do if I develop symptoms?

COVID-19 has three main symptoms: a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a change / loss in your sense of smell or taste. However, in some cases symptoms can overlap with those associated with colds and the flu including fatigue, muscle ache, shortness of breath, and headaches.

If you have any of these symptoms it is important to get tested for COVID-19, ideally using a PCR test, and isolate until you get a result. If you do have COVID-19, you must isolate until you test negative, with a minimum of 5 full days isolation. 

3. Getting tested

Anyone with symptoms should be tested to check if it is COVID-19. The sooner you can get tested, the more it can help to control the spread of the virus.

In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, if your test is positive, the NHS (or Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland) will get in touch with you. Tests can be done at home, or in a medical setting.

There are two main coronavirus tests:

PCR – Polymerase chain reaction, mainly for people who have symptoms

LFD – Lateral Flow Device, for people who do not have symptoms

4. Can I get a contact tracing phone app for COVID-19?

Contact tracing apps for mobile phones are now available in every UK nation. These apps could help control the spread of coronavirus by alerting you if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

· Get the Northern Ireland COVID-19 tracing app

5. Autumn & Winter Vaccinations

If you have a weakened immune system, you can receive a further COVID-19 vaccination this autumn for extra protection.

The Importance of Getting Vaccinated This Autumn 

COVID-19 is still with us and is still making people very ill. If you have a weakened immune system due to a health condition or medical treatment, COVID-19 may affect you more seriously. Your protection from previous doses of the vaccine may now be lower and will continue to decline.

Even though you might not develop full immunity, even a limited response to a further dose should help to reduce your risk of being severely ill or admitted to hospital if you catch COVID-19.

Experts have advised that the threat from COVID-19 will be greatest over winter. Viruses like COVID-19 spread much more easily when we socialise indoors, so it’s important that you top up your protection with a seasonal booster dose.

For more information on the importance of getting vaccinated if you're eligible, you can watch this video:

To maximise protection against COVID over the winter, the NHS is now extending the offer of COVID boosters to people living within the same household as someone who is immunosuppressed. You are also now able to self-declare to receive a booster, meaning that if you’re immunosuppressed or sharing a household with someone that is, you’ll be able to get a booster if you can provide evidence that you’re vulnerable or living with a vulnerable person. The NHS also strongly recommend that pregnant women receive an autumn booster.

Find more information here on eligibility and how to book here:

How to get your next COVID-19 vaccination

You can have your autumn seasonal vaccine if it's been at least 3 months since you had your previous dose. If you have a weakened immune system, you can book online without waiting to be invited.

  • To book online, visit
  • If you can’t book online, phone 119 free of charge, 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday or 8am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. You can ask someone else to do this for you. If you need an interpreter, use text phone 18001 119 or the NHS British Sign Language interpreter service at 
  • Alternatively, you can find a walk-in vaccination site near you at You don’t need to book an appointment with a walk-in site but please check before visiting that they can vaccinate you – not all sites vaccinate all age groups.

It’s not too late to get an earlier dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if you need one. If you’ve not had a 1st or 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine yet, you should make sure you have both as soon as possible. If you have had a severely weakened immune system, you should get an additional third dose before you get any booster.

The new bivalent vaccine

Vaccines used to date were designed to target the original strain of COVID-19 and have remained effective at preventing severe illness, including against later variants such as Omicron.

Following the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) updated advice on a preference for a bivalent-led seasonal campaign, the NHS is the first healthcare system in the world to use the next generation, bivalent COVID-19 vaccine in our seasonal campaign, which targets both Omicron and the original strain.

For those eligible, getting vaccinated in good time ahead of winter when viruses circulate most is more important than the type of vaccine given.   

All available vaccines, including bivalent vaccines, provide good protection against severe illness from COVID-19 and have been approved for use by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). They’ve met the MHRA’s strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

Flu vaccines 

Flu can be very dangerous and even life threatening for some, particularly people with certain health conditions. The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and it’s offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of getting seriously ill from flu.

If you’re eligible, it’s important to get it every year because the viruses that cause flu change every year. This means the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year. It’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The best time to get vaccinated is in the autumn or early winter before flu starts spreading. COVID-19 vaccines and the flu vaccine can be given on the same day for people who are eligible for both. The NHS is making it easier to receive both of these seasonal vaccinations at the same time. However, if getting both vaccines together is not possible, you should get each vaccination as soon as you can for better protection ahead of winter, rather than waiting.

As the UK eases out of lockdown, it is understandable that many of you may be unsure about how to keep safe as the restrictions ease. Although the legal restrictions caused by COVID have ended, this virus has not gone away, therefore it is important to act sensibly and safely.

Pregnant Women

The autumn booster is strongly recommended for pregnant women, who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill with COVID. For more information, watch the Department of Health and Social Care's video with Dr Viki Male, an immunologist researching vaccines in pregnancy at Imperial College, who explains some of the data connected to COVID and pregnancy and encourages pregnant women to come forward for their autumn booster:

6. 2023 Autumn Boosters

Following new advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an autumn booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will be offered to people at the highest risk of severe illness:

  • Everyone aged 65 and over
  • Residents in care homes for older adults
  • Immunosuppressed people between the ages of 6 months to 64 years
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • People aged 12-64 years old who are household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed 
  • People aged 16-64 years old who are carers and staff working in care homes

This means that if you are living with scleroderma, and receiving immunosuppressive treatment for the condition, you will be eligible for the 2023 autumn booster. Your household contacts and carers will also be able to receive the autumn booster in 2023.

You can find out more information about the 2023 Autumn Boosters here