NHS England has suggested that the Covid booster jab programme will not begin next week as final JCVI advice remains outstanding.
The JCVI laid out interim advice on the order of priority for groups receiving their third vaccine dose in June, with GPs among the top priority groups.
The NHS has been mobilising for the two-stage booster programme to begin from 6 September, alongside flu vaccinations, while awaiting final JCVI advice on when the programme will start and who exactly will be prioritised.
But in its latest email bulletin, sent today, NHS England told GPs that they ‘must not start providing booster vaccinations’ yet.
It said: ‘Thank you to all PCN groupings and community pharmacies for your planning and preparation to be ready for a potential Covid-19 booster programme.
‘We’d like to remind all Local Vaccination Services which have opted in to Phase 3 that you must not start providing booster vaccinations, or provide the primary course of vaccinations under the Phase 3 Enhanced Service specification for general practice or the Phase 3 Local Enhanced Service for community pharmacy, until final JCVI guidance has been received, the Government has approved the start of a booster programme, and NHS England and NHS Improvement has notified sites that vaccinations can start. This has not yet happened.’
It added that JCVI guidance is expected ‘in the coming weeks’, with the start of the programme to follow ‘as quickly feasible’ while giving vaccination sites ‘sufficient notice’.
The bulletin said: ‘We are expecting final JCVI guidance in the coming weeks and will commence the booster programme as quickly as feasible thereafter, giving LVS sites sufficient notice as required to be ready for this. Please await further guidance.’
This week, the JCVI indicated that further information on booster vaccinations will be published soon and that the announcement of third primary doses for the immunosuppressed does not indicate a delay in a decision on the booster programme.
A JCVI statement said it is ‘still deliberating the potential benefits of booster vaccines for the rest of the population and is awaiting further evidence to inform this decision’.
At the time, the health secretary reiterated that the Government is ‘continuing to plan for [the booster programme] to begin in September’.
He previously said he is ‘confident’ that Covid booster jabs will start ‘sometime’ in September for the ‘most vulnerable’, after the timing and scope of the campaign came into question.