COVID vaccine 15-minute observation rule looks set to be scrapped

The need for 15 minutes' observation after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is currently under review, with a decision expected 'very shortly', health secretary Sajid Javid has said.

Post-vaccine observation (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

With the NHS aiming to rapidly accelerate the rollout of COVID-19 booster jabs, GPs have warned that the 15-minute observation period is hampering efforts to vaccinate more people and causing logistical problems for social distancing at smaller vaccination sites.

Last week, NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani told GPs that the MHRA had already reviewed the observation period advice and decided to keep the recommendation in place.

However, the surge in cases of the Omicron variant and the government's aim to offer booster jabs to anyone who received a second dose at least three months ago by the end of December, means the guidance is again under review.

15-minute observation

In parliament on Monday 14 December Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodfood Green Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the main problem GPs in his constituency felt would prevent them from hitting new vaccination targets was the 15-minute wait.

Addressing Mr Javid he said: 'When I spoke this morning to GPs in my constituency, I asked them, “What is the one thing that you would like the secretary of state to do now if you’ve got to get all these people through?”

'They said, “Do we really need to have the 15-minute wait? Can we end that? We would triple our way through this, and you would get it going straight away?” Will the secretary of state please act on that now?'

In response, Mr Javid said the 15-minute wait was 'being very actively looked at, and I am sure that I will have something more to say on that very shortly'.

Since prime minister Boris Johnson announced on 12 December the booster programme would be rapidly scaled up to combat a 'tidal wave' of Omicron cases, GPs have been warning that the 15-minute observation period could de-rail the plans.

Reducing efficiency

Profesor Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, said on Twitter that the measure 'substantially reduces the efficiency' of vaccination centres and causes significant problems for vaccinating housebound patients.

Other GPs have pointed out that cases of anaphylaxis following the vaccination are extremely rare and highlighted that the rule had led to some practices deciding to back out of the vaccination programme.

The health secretary warned on Monday that Omicron is spreading faster than any other variant of coronavirus and the UK faces a sharp rise in deaths and hospitalisations among infected patients. Mr Javid told MPs that 4,713 cases of Omicron have been confirmed in the UK and that UK Health Security Agency estimates now put total daily COVID-19 infections at 200,000.

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