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GPs asked to identify immunosuppressed and invite household members for Covid jab

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NHS England has asked GP practices to identify immunosuppressed patients and write to inform them that their adult household members are now eligible for the Covid vaccine.

This comes as the Government, this week, accepted a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to prioritise household members of those with a weakened immune system for the jab.

The NHS England document, sent to practices yesterday (31 March), includes a template letter to be sent to their ‘severely immunosuppressed’ patients, communicating that their adult household contacts can now be vaccinated and should contact their practice for an appointment.

NHS England has defined ‘adult household contacts’ as ‘individuals who expect to share living accommodation on most days…. and therefore, for whom continuing close contact is unavoidable’, which is the same definition used in the Green Book. 

This covers individuals aged 16 years or over only, and household contacts aged 16-17 will need to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, it said.

The household members will need to bring the letter and their own proof of address, ‘which must match that of the immunosuppressed individual’, to their appointment, NHS England said, adding that this should be requested on arrival.

It added: ‘Members of “bubbles” that do not live with an immunosuppressed person for the majority of the week (frequent visitors and other non-carers who might visit the house often but not for the majority of the week, including overnight stays) are excluded from the definition.’

However, there may be a ‘small number’ of people supporting an immunosuppressed person through a period of treatment, such as ‘daily care for the majority of the week’, who cannot provide a matching address – for whom ‘flexibility should be applied’, NHS England said. 

Most severely immunosuppressed individuals should already be flagged as clinically extremely vulnerable and therefore in cohort 4, though some will be in cohort 6, it said. 

NHS England added: ‘Existing SNOMED codes will capture a proportion, but not all of this group as some individuals will have been added to the CEV list via other routes, including through secondary care.’

This comes as patients who are clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid have been advised they can stop shielding from today (1 April), though they have been told to still ‘take extra precautions’ such as social distancing