GPs can now offer Covid-19 vaccination to patients who are not within the first four JCVI-identified priority groups if there is a ‘risk’ the stock will be wasted, NHS England has said.
However, stocks should still not be used to deliver second doses.
GPs can also begin ‘opportunistic’ vaccinations of those within the first four cohorts as part of a ‘more flexible approach’ announced today.
It comes as PCNs were yesterday given the green light to begin inviting patients over 70 and the clinically extremely vulnerable for Covid vaccinations.
Announcing the expansion, the Government said GPs should continue to offer the vaccine to each priority group in the order set out by the JCVI.
However, NHS England has today set out additional ‘flexibility’ for GPs delivering the programme.
The latest GP bulletin said: ‘In order to support achievement of a vaccination offer to all individuals within JCVI cohorts 1-4 by 15 February 2021, and guided by the principles of minimising wastage, reducing inequality of access, and maximising pace, we are now moving to a more flexible approach across cohorts 1-4.’
It added: ‘If there is vaccine supply and deployment capacity, but a degree of uncertainty on whether clinics will be full, further invitations can be made to individuals from the next eligible cohort (across cohorts 1-4) in order to utilise available supply.
‘Vaccination beyond the current cohorts (1-4) can be offered if there is a risk that current vaccine stock will become unviable if not used.’
GP-led sites can also begin ‘opportunistic vaccination’ within the first four cohorts, such as vaccinating partners of ‘similar age’ from cohorts three and four who attend together or those living in multigenerational households, NHS England said.
Advice on how to support vaccination of the clinically extremely vulnerable ‘will follow shortly’, it added.
However, NHS England said GPs should continue to prioritise the JCVI’s top two priority groups – care home residents and staff, over 80s and frontline health and social care workers.
And vaccines ‘should only be used to deliver first doses’, it reiterated.
Meanwhile, the Government has said that up to 2,000 highly-trained supply chain workers that are ‘irreplaceable’ and ‘crucial’ to the vaccination programme will be offered jabs across the UK ‘in the coming days’.
The move ‘aims to protect continuity of the supply chain to help ensure flow of Covid vaccines for [the] most vulnerable’, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
Eligible roles, including staff working for Pfizer and AstraZeneca, will include those in manufacturing, fill and finish and batch testing.
Pulse revealed on Friday that GPs could give unused vaccines to the over 75s amid reports that some vials were being wasted.