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GPs to offer healthy 12-15s Covid jabs if access not ‘challenged’

GPs given 14 January opt-out deadline for vaccinating 5-11s against Covid

GPs could be asked to deliver Covid jabs to healthy 12-15-year-olds if access to primary care is not ‘challenged’ in the area, NHS England has said.

In a letter sent to all PCN-led vaccination sites today and seen by Pulse, NHS England said that while Covid vaccination for the group ‘continues to be deployed by school-age immunisation service providers’, systems must immediately ‘stand up an out-of-school offer’.

It said they should ‘take immediate action to stand up an out-of-school offer, maximising capacity for 12-15s over the October half-term and beyond, as quickly as possible’.

The letter added that all 12-15-year-olds will ‘shortly’ be able to book Covid jabs at vaccination centres through the national booking service to ‘maintain access throughout the school holidays and beyond’.

It said: ‘Changes have now been made to the enhanced service for general practices working in PCN groupings and to the community pharmacy LES to allow vaccinations to be delivered to this cohort.’

However, it added that PCNs should only be commissioned to vaccinate the cohort in the ‘unique circumstances’ that there is ‘no other capacity available’ via other sites such as hospital hubs and community pharmacies, ‘given efforts across the system to support wider access and the level of existing involvement of PCNs in the programme’.

NHS England said: ‘Where access to primary medical services is challenged, commissioners must not commission the PCN to vaccinate 12-15-year-olds.’

PCNs can only vaccinate the group if they have ‘agreement in writing’ from their commissioner, it added.

The letter said: ‘These changes will need to be delivered alongside the existing booster and flu vaccination programmes.

‘We recognise this is challenging but we must continue to turbo-charge delivery of our life-saving programme.’

‘Additional support’ including with workforce needs is available ‘at every level of the system’, it added.

NHS England set out a target last month for healthy 12-15-year-olds to receive Covid vaccinations by the October half-term break.

It said at the time that further guidance on a ‘follow-up offer’ for those aged 12-15 who miss the first and an ‘evergreen offer’ for those turning 12 would follow and that it was ‘anticipated’ that this would be delivered ‘out of school’.

In September, the Government announced that all 12-15s in England would be offered a first Pfizer jab through a school-based delivery programme ‘supported by GPs’.

It comes as NHS England and the Government announced a £250m ‘package of support’ for general practice last week, which aims to improve access to general practice.

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