COVID-19 booster campaign to start on 5 September, NHS England says

The COVID-19 booster programme will begin in care homes and for housebound patients on 5 September and launch for over-75s and health and social care workers on 12 September, NHS England has confirmed.

(Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images)

The National Booking Service will open on 5 September to enable those aged over 75 and health and social care workers to book in for their jab, NHS England said in a letter to practices and health leaders.

Those aged over 65, carers, household contacts of immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and those with an underlying condition that puts them at increased risk of COVID will be the next groups able to book appointments. NHS England said details on timings for this will be made in 'due course'.

NHS England said it expected all vaccination sites taking part in the autumn boosters to be operating at full capacity from 19 September. It added that it would be 'engaging with professional bodies on options to support prioritising the completion of vaccination in care homes as early as possible'.

All eligible patients should be offered the jab by the start of December, the letter said. However it added: 'The secretary of state has also asked the NHS to put plans in place to accelerate the programme should it be necessary (especially to anticipate and mitigate broader pressures on the NHS as a whole as we get closer to winter) and bring forward the end date if clinically advised and operationally viable.'

COVID-19 boosters

NHS England confirmed that the campaign would use a single type of vaccine for the boosters in adults and, in line with recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), this will be a bivalent mRNA vaccine that provides protection against both the original strain of the virus and the Omicron variant. The only jab of this type currently approved for use in the UK is the new Moderna vaccine.

However the JCVI has also warned that vaccinating people promptly is more important than the type of vaccine used. It said that if the new Moderna jab or another bivalent vaccine is not available, then the original Moderna jab or the Pfizer vaccine should be used.

NHS England said that it would confirm vaccination sites' vaccine allocation for the first four weeks of the campaign by the end of this week. Sites will be able to start ordering vaccines from 23 August, it added.

The UK Health Security Agency is currently updating patient group directions (PGDs) and national protocols and the PGD is expected to be ready by 31 August with the national protocol to follow shortly after. Vaccine specific e-learning to train vaccinators on the new jab will also be released shortly, NHS England said.

Vaccination programme

NHS England said that around 26m people across England will be eligible for the autumn booster. The campaign covers all those aged over 50, health and social care workers, those with an underlying condition that puts them at greater risk from COVID, carers and household contacts of the immunosuppressed.

Around 3,000 sites, which include PCN vaccination sites, will be part of the rollout, NHS England said.

This week the BMA raised 'serious concerns' about the funding being provided to GP practices  delivering the booster campaign as well as the workload implications. Practices will be paid less per jab than in previous phases of the vaccination programme and the BMA has accused NHS England of 'trying to deliver a booster programme on the cheap'.

GPs have also raised concerns about workload pressures this winter, with nine in ten that responded to a GPonline poll saying they did not think their practice would cope during the winter months.

NHS director for vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: 'This winter will be the first time we see the real effects of both COVID and flu in full circulation as we go about life as normal – and so it is vital that those most susceptible to serious illness from these viruses come forward for the latest jab in order to protect themselves.

'We know that our GPs and community pharmacies have been integral to the success of the NHS vaccination programme due to their locations and relationships with local communities, and so it is fantastic that so many have opted to be part of the latest phase of the campaign.'

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