NHS England has given GPs until Monday to opt in to deliver Covid booster jabs to the newly eligible 40-49 cohort.
In a letter sent to Covid vaccine sites yesterday, NHS England said that all mass vaccination centres and hospital and community pharmacy-led sites should prepare to start vaccinating those in their 40s – cohort 10 – from 22 November.
However, it added: ‘We recognise the pressures general practice is under and that not all networks will have capacity to deliver boosters to cohort 10 alongside core primary medical services and winter pressures.
‘PCNs are therefore asked to inform their local commissioner by 22 November if they wish to opt in to vaccinate this cohort.’
The GP enhanced service for the booster programme has been updated and further details on the opt-in process will be included in operational guidance to be ‘issued shortly’, NHS England said.
The letter also said that all sites already ‘assured’ to vaccinate 16 and 17-year-olds should ‘plan to start delivering second doses’ from 22 November at a minimum of twelve weeks after the first dose or proven Covid infection where later – in line with new JCVI advice.
NHS England has published an updated enhanced specification for PCN-led vaccination sites to ‘support the vaccination of 16–17-year olds for assured PCN sites’, it added.
And at-risk 16-17s should ‘continue to be offered a second dose at a minimum of eight weeks after the first dose via local booking or walk-ins’, with further details to be set out in the upcoming operational guidance, it said.
Meanwhile, the letter added that all systems should ‘review capacity and work with sites to update all vaccination site calendars to ensure maximum availability’.
The national booking system (NBS) will open for booster jab bookings for 40-49s from 22 November – or from five months after their second dose – and will allow individuals to book their jab from on after the recommended six-month interval.
National invitations will start to be issued ‘shortly thereafter’, NHS England said.
And the NBS will open to 16-17s for second dose bookings from 22 November but appointments will be available ‘no earlier than the recommended twelve weeks after their first’, it added.
Those in their 40s will be offered a dose of Pfizer or a half dose of Moderna, while 16-17s will be offered a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, in line with the rest of the vaccination programme so far.
The JCVI said there is ‘no robust evidence’ of a decline in protection against severe Covid in double-jabbed under-40s ‘as yet’, but that it will ‘continue to closely review all available data to develop further advice in due course’.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam added that elderly adults, at-risk patients and health and social care workers ‘remain the top priority for boosters’.
Booster jabs have so far been rolled out to all patients in groups 1-9 of the first phase of the Covid vaccination campaign – including those who are vulnerable to Covid and the over-50s – according to JCVI advice.
Meanwhile, the Government accepted new JCVI advice for 16-17-year-olds to become eligible for one dose of a Covid vaccine on 4 August.
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