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.
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.
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.
If the government wants to increase the number of Covid-19 vaccinations, then the MHRA needs to urgently review the 15 minute waiting period after vaccination. This substantially reduces the efficiency and throughput of vaccine clinics, as well as vaccinations for the housebound.— Professor Azeem Majeed (@Azeem_Majeed) December 13, 2021
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.
I think anaphylaxis way more common with peanuts than covid jab. Should we make people wait 15 minutes after buying a pack of peanuts? https://t.co/mOlh1FJK02— Trisha Greenhalgh (@trishgreenhalgh) December 12, 2021
Completely agree to the points made here Simon - the risk for waiting for 15 mins, even appropriately distanced, outweighs the risk of anaphylaxis. Also the 15 min wait has meant that some practices have pulled out, potentially delaying vaccine delivery to their patients— Dr Helen Salisbury (@HelenRSalisbury) December 23, 2020
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.