GPs and midwives are being urged to make sure pregnant women know they are eligible for booster vaccinations this autumn amidst concerns over the latest Covid variant.
Meanwhile, NHS England hailed GP teams for vaccinating 4,616 care homes (over a quarter) so far, while a total of 1.16 million Covid jabs were delivered in total in the first week of the programme. Some 2.8 million flu jabs were also administered by GPs, pharmacists and other NHS teams.
A letter from NHS England reiterated expert advice that the BA.2.86 variant is the most concerning since Omicron first emerged with UK public health officials encouraging all those eligible to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Pregnant women remain on the list for those at higher risk of severe Covid infection and are also eligible for vaccination against flu, the letter states and services have an ‘essential role’ in making sure they have been given advice.
Wherever possible vaccinations for Covid-19, flu and pertussis should be offered at the same time to make it easier and more convenient for pregnant women to be protected, the letter added.
That will also ensure ‘as many eligible people as possible are vaccinated by the end of October, in line with the updated guidance’, it said.
It called on maternity, pharmacy and primary care to make every contact count and ensure pregnant women are ‘encouraged at every opportunity’ to take up the vaccination offer ahead of the winter months.
For midwives this should include providing leaflets and advice at booking and other antenatal appointments, the letter said.
But services should collaborate to make sure it is as easy as possible for pregnant women to be vaccinated, it added.
It comes as the BMA’s GP committee called for an investigation into the ‘mismanagement’ over this year’s Covid and flu vaccination programme, particularly the confusion over start dates.
NHS England said the programmes would start in October this year – a move which the BMA said would cause ‘serious disruption’.
But the Government then announced that vaccination would begin on 11 September, in what the BMA has called a ‘u-turn’, following the identification of a new Covid variant.
Announcing the early start and completion date at the end of August, NHS England national director for vaccination Steve Russell said: ‘Following [UKHSA advice], the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has asked NHS England to bring the vaccination programme forward, to start earlier, and to accelerate delivery of the programme to vaccinate eligible people more quickly.
‘We would like as many people as possible to have been vaccinated by the end of October. DHSC are providing additional support to the NHS to enable this to happen.’