During a Downing Street media briefing at the end of November NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said efforts were being made to ‘reduce or eliminate’ the current requirement for a 15-minute observation period after patients receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in a bid to speed up the booster rollout.
However, during an NHS England webinar on 9 December primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said that the MHRA had completed a review of the measure and determined that the observation period was 'not currently changing'.
'This might change, but currently it is not changing as of today,' Dr Kanani said.
She said she recognised that the decision would be 'frustrating' for vaccination sites, but suggested clinicians should use the time 'in a way that can be helpful for you and your patients'.
This could include 'making every contact count' interventions or wider care, Dr Kanani said. However she said if the observation period was affecting the number of vaccinations sites could deliver, GPs should speak to their commissioners.
She said: 'If it is impacting on your throughput, let your commissioner know. There's lots of things we can do to support you in terms of your workforce and your throughput.'
Dr Kanani also acknowledged that the 15-minute wait caused problems for teams vaccinating housebound patients, but said it was essential these patients were protected and received their booster vaccines.
'It's as simple as that,' she said. 'We do have St John's Ambulance and some people have found them really helpful in going round and supporting vaccination in homes and doing the observations. But others have found it useful to do a home visit, do a vaccination and deliver care processes at the same time.'
Storing vaccines in practices
Dr Kanani also said that the MHRA had relaxed rules around moving vaccines within a PCN site that would allow practices to store vaccines in their fridges.
'It means you can opportunistically administer the vaccine,' she said. 'So your ability to have some in the fridge to offer it to people, when you're seeing them or offering care will be really quite game changing. It's something that a lot of us have wanted for quite a while so please do take that opportunity and use it.'
NHS England was still not yet able to arrange deliver of COVID vaccines directly to practices, Dr Kanani said, but she hoped this would be resolved by next winter.