NHS edict ignored as 1 in 4 COVID-19 jabs since 3 January are second dose

More than one in four COVID-19 jabs administered since 3 January have been second doses, according to official data that suggest an NHS edict to prioritise first doses has been widely ignored.

COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Russell Cheyne/AFP/Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Russell Cheyne/AFP/Getty Images)

Following updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the UK's four CMOs on 30 December, NHS England urged vaccination sites to reschedule all second doses booked after 4 January.

The latest available data from NHS England show that by 11 January a total of 2,474,205 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in England. Of the 987,395 doses that went into patients' arms after 3 January, 373,944 - 27% - were second doses.

By 3 January, a total of 1,112,866 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in England - just 19,981 of which were second doses. Data published this week make clear that administration of second doses continued up to at least a week after the 4 January cut-off set by NHS England.

COVID-19 vaccine

The next available data after 3 January show that by 10 January, 374,613 second doses had been delivered to patients - and by the following day this had risen to 393,925.

GPonline reported on 6 January that GPs in parts of England had decided to press ahead with second doses promised to patients vaccinated in the first wave of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The official data reveal just how widely vaccination sites have decided to honour bookings for second-dose vaccinations - despite a string of calls from NHS England for these appointments to be cancelled.

Advice issued by NHS England on 30 December following the updated JCVI and CMO advice set out 'actions now required' for hospital and local vaccination sites.

The guidance said for patients 'who have received their first vaccination and are due to receive their second dose between now and Monday 4 January, no further action is required, and these appointments should continue as planned'.

Second dose

But it added: 'For those who have received their first dose and are scheduled to receive their second after Monday 4 January, the second dose appointment should be rescheduled in most instances (with clinical discretion applied locally if needed) for between three (Pfizer BioNtech vaccine) and four (Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine) and 12 weeks’ time, with most recipients to be booked in the last week of that 12-week period.

Patients receiving a first dose of vaccine from 31 December onwards should also mostly be booked for a second dose 12 weeks later, the letter said.

A further letter issued this week reiterated this message and made clear the requirement that all second doses - including for health and care staff - be pushed back to 12 weeks after the first dose. It says: 'To help us deliver our public health duties identified above, we need to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, including our frontline health and care workforce.

'All vaccination sites must with immediate effect, ensure all second dose appointments that have not already been rescheduled must be rearranged.

Appointments rescheduled

'This means all appointments to receive the second dose must be rescheduled, with recipients to be booked in for a second dose in the 12th week. This includes second dose arrangements for both patients and health and care staff.'

Evidence that many vaccination sites pushed ahead with second-dose vaccination appointments comes after doctors hit out at calls for them to reschedule appointments. Delaying appointments for vulnerable older patients who had been promised a second dose was 'grossly unfair', the BMA warned on 31 December.

The BMA also said rearranging appointments for tens of thousands of patients would cause 'huge logistical problems' for practices. It said existing appointments should be honoured and that it would support GPs if they decided to vaccinate those patients who were due to have a second jab in January.

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