GPs are facing pressure from patients who want their second Covid jab before eight weeks to go on holiday, NHS England has said.
Earlier this month, the Government announced that the interval between first and second doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be reduced to eight weeks for all adults, in line with certain groups.
But it also announced that from 19 July, when all legal Covid restrictions will be lifted in England, fully-vaccinated individuals will no longer have to self-isolate on return from an ‘amber list’ country.
Speaking in a GP webinar last night, NHS England director of primary care vaccination Caroline Temmink said that this will result in ‘difficult conversations’ for GPs but that they must ‘stick to’ a minimum of eight weeks between doses.
She said: ‘Second doses shouldn’t be given before eight weeks to make sure that we give the maximum benefit to our patients – so it’s the right balance between getting that rapid protection and it being long-lasting.
‘We do know that means there will be some difficult conversations, particularly with some of the information around having two doses and being able to travel, and that actually there is quite a lot of pressure being put on PCNs in terms of having a second dose earlier than that.’
Ms Temmink added that NHS England has produced a ‘suggested script with some key messages and a poster’ to ‘support’ vaccination site staff with these discussions.
A slide presented at the webinar added that this will be followed by a ‘wider resource pack’ next week, including a ‘SAFER model for managing escalating incidents’.
Public Health England’s Green Book, updated this month, said: ‘For both adenovirus vector and mRNA vaccines, there is evidence of better immune response and/or protection where longer intervals between doses are used.
‘Currently, JCVI is recommending an interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses of all the available Covid-19 vaccines. Operationally, this consistent interval should be used for all two-dose vaccines to avoid confusion and simplify booking, and will help to ensure a good balance between achieving rapid and long-lasting protection.’
It added that the ‘main exception’ to the eight-week interval is those about to commence immunosuppressive treatment, who may be given vaccines at lower intervals to ‘ensure that the vaccine is given whilst their immune system is better able to respond’.
And new NHS England guidance on the booster programme due to run from September revealed that offering the vaccinations at individual practice level is ‘not operationally feasible’.