GPs to choose vaccination role in under 50s as COVID-19 jab supply to exceed 4m per week

GP practices in England have one week to choose whether to remain part of the COVID-19 vaccination programme beyond the first nine priority cohorts - as NHS England confirmed an acceleration in vaccine supply had been brought forward.

COVID-19 vaccination (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccination (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

An update to the COVID-19 vaccination enhanced service published on 11 March says practices that do not wish to vaccinate patients in cohorts 10-12 - those aged 40-49, 30-39 and 18-29 - must opt out 'by no later than 23.59 on Friday 19 March'.

Practices that choose to remain part of the vaccination programme beyond cohort 9 will need to provide a brief written statement to confirm they can 'fulfil the requirements of the 21/22 core primary medical services contract from April 2021'.

They will also need to set out in writing to commissioners details of extra staff brought in locally to support the vaccination programme, must have offered all patients in cohorts 1-9 a vaccination before starting the next three groups - and must demonstrate that they are capable of managing second-dose vaccinations for cohorts 1-9 on top of the extra work.

COVID-19 vaccine campaign

Confirmation of the role practices and PCNs will be invited to play in the next phase of the vaccination campaign comes as NHS England confirmed that vaccine supply is set to spike sharply from the end of this week.

Slides from a webinar for NHS staff seen by GPonline confirm that 'from 11 March vaccine supply will increase substantially and be sustained at a higher level for several weeks'.

The slides confirm that deliveries scheduled for the week beginning 15 March had been brought forward to offer vaccination sites greater flexibility and a chance to 'get ahead with priority cohorts'.

Vaccination sites have been told that for the week beginning 15 March they should prepare to deliver 'twice the level of vaccine available in the week beginning 1 March' - confirming suggestions that vaccine supplies will hit record levels this month.

Vaccine rollout

Analysis by GPonline shows that more than 2m doses of vaccine were delivered in total in the week beginning 1 March in England - and around 2.4m UK-wide. Around one in seven doses delivered UK-wide in that one-week period were second-dose jabs.

GP practices that choose to opt out of remaining part of the vaccination programme for patients beyond cohorts 1-9 can do so without affecting their participation in 'any other services delivered' under the enhanced service.

Those that choose to continue to vaccinate cohorts 10-12 must not begin vaccinating this group until NHS England announces the decision to extend vaccinations beyond the first nine cohorts.

NHS England has also apologised to GPs for problems with payments in February and March that have left some practices with cashflow problems. Slides shared at the webinar confirmed that issues relating to supplementary pay for vaccinations in care home or housebound patients had been 'largely resolved'.

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