Primary care networks (PCNs) will not be expected to lead on the vaccine rollout for five-to-11-year-olds, due to ongoing workforce pressures, NHS England has said.
In a letter sent to practices today (18 February), NHSE said that community pharmacy-led sites would instead be the primary delivery models, given the ‘ongoing workload for general practice’.
Children in the age group are being offered two 10-microgram doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid jab eight weeks apart, with each dose offered at least four weeks after any Covid infection.
NHSE’s letter said: ‘PCN groupings are not expected to be the primary delivery model for this part of the programme given the need to reconfigure sites to create an age-appropriate offer for 5 to 11-year-olds, current capacity in the programme, and the ongoing workload for general practice.’
PCN groupings could still be commissioned where there is an ‘assessed need to ensure coverage’ or equity of access.
Those PCN-led sites must consider taking on additional staff to support the cohort while maintaining their core care responsibilities, it said.
However, these sites should continue to identify and vaccinate at-risk five-to-11-year-olds or those who live with someone who is immunosuppressed, in line with previous guidance.
Additionally, GP sites are able to vaccinate non-at-risk five-to-11-year-olds where vaccine supply would otherwise be wasted.
It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) this week advised the Government to Covid vaccinate the cohort.
Any sites vaccinating the youngest cohort should have their calendars open on the national booking system (NBS) from 31 March, NHSE said.
Sites delivering the vaccine will need to be ‘appropriately assured’ and deploy staff ‘trained to the appropriate standards’ to vaccinate five-to-11-year-olds’, it said.
Sites should also offer appointments outside of normal school hours, with community pharmacies encouraged to consider satellite sites to reach as many children as possible.
Vaccination sites should also ensure they offer ‘adequate time’ for families to consider vaccine safety, including discussing other vaccines the child may need, said NHSE.