The cohorts prioritised for the planned Covid booster jab programme may be based on the list of patients advised to shield, NHS England has indicated.
In April, patients who are clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid were advised they can stop shielding, though they were told to still ‘take extra precautions’ such as social distancing.
In a bulletin sent to practices this month, NHS England said it is continuing to make ‘improvements’ to the shielded patient list so it is ready for future use.
It suggested that the list may be used as the basis for ‘future vaccination prioritisation’.
It said: ‘Working together with DHSC and NHS Digital we have continued to make improvements to the Shielded Patient List (SPL) to inform shielding advice in the future should that be needed and/or for future vaccination prioritisation.
‘We are continuing to assess the impacts of vaccination on risks for people with different health conditions and we will provide updates in the coming months.’
GPs can now generate new ‘unique sign-in links’ via their NHSemail email addresses, which are valid for 24 hours and once activated can be used to access the tool for six months, it said.
Former health secretary Matt Hancock previously said he was ‘absolutely clear’ that a Covid vaccination booster programme will run this autumn but deputy CMO Dr Jonathan Van-Tam has said it could be delayed if needed.
Professor Van-Tam also said in April that it is ‘not yet precisely known’ when boosters will be given, who they will be given to and what the booster vaccines will look like.
Last week, NHS England’s outgoing chief executive Simon Stevens said it is ‘very likely’ the flu and Covid jabs will be co-administered, but stressed details of the programme will not be confirmed until after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation issues its advice.
Clinical trials are underway to test seven different existing vaccines for a third booster Covid shot and are due to report by September.
It comes as NHS England has announced that patients dropping in for flu and top-up Covid vaccinations this autumn will be offered a health check at the same time.