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Covid booster shots could become part of core GP contract, says BMA


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Exclusive Covid booster jabs could become part of core GP contractual work in the future, the BMA’s GP Committee chair has told Pulse.

The Government has revealed it is planning for a Covid revaccination campaign, which is ‘likely to run later this year in autumn or winter’.

And BMA GPC England chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that booster shots could become core GP work on an optional basis, much like the flu vaccination programme.

He said: ‘If it was found necessary as we understand more about Covid and the requirement to provide protection to our patients, then it’s quite possible that we may need further boosters in the future and general practice would be the best place to deliver that.

‘Just as we give flu vaccines every year, it’s quite possible that we might need to provide Covid boosters on a regular basis as well.’

When asked whether autumn booster jabs could become part of the core GMS contract, Dr Vautrey told Pulse ‘it’s possible’ this will be the case, following a similar model to the flu programme.

He added: ‘It would remain optional in the way that flu vaccine delivery is optional but almost all practices choose to do it.

‘It needs to be resourced properly and practices need to be able to plan appropriately to be able to have the necessary staff involvement but we do mass vaccinations on an annual basis so this would be potentially an additional vaccination that we would offer as part of that wider vaccination programme.’

The BMA would negotiate appropriate funding with NHS England ‘depending on what was required’ as part of the programme but no negotiations are currently taking place around this, he told Pulse.

Hertfordshire-based GP partner, RCGP senior educator and former GP federation lead Dr Mike Smith said the proposal is ‘ill-thought-through’ and ‘a slap in the face for GPs’ who have been giving up weekends and evenings to deliver Covid jabs.

He added: ‘The logistics of a Covid jab are completely different to a flu jab, in terms of the preparation, safety profile [and so on], so actually the resource needed to do it is higher.

‘It’s fine if it’s resourced properly but what we’ve [seen] time and time again is that it’s never resourced properly. General practice already isn’t resourced properly to do this, so it would take something quite special.’

And the fact that this would be optional ‘doesn’t carry much weight in general practice’, Dr Smith told Pulse.

He said: ‘Technically there are lots of optional things in the GMS contract, but if you don’t do them you’re not going to have enough income to pay the bills.’

He added: ‘This is also on the back of a massive NHS reform that will totally turn PCNs up on their head – it’s a very fragile and precarious time for general practice and then to do this, it just seems the timing couldn’t be worse.

‘I hope someone sees sense and stops this before it even gets out of a proposal.’

The Government has said that ‘over the longer term, revaccination is likely to become a regular part of managing Covid-19’.

It has already signed an agreement with vaccine manufacturer CureVac to ‘rapidly develop new vaccines’ based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, with a pre-order of 50 million doses.

However, at a Downing Street briefing earlier this month chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty suggested the possibility of only vulnerable patients requiring a booster vaccine dose.

This article was updated on 22 April to reflect that Dr Smith is based in Hertfordshire.