In an update to GPs sent on 5 August, health bosses said that local vaccination sites could begin to offer vaccines to this group following an update to JCVI guidance on 4 August, which recommended that all16- and 17-year-olds should be offered a first doseof the Pfizer vaccine.
Those aged 12–15 who have underlying health conditions, or are in close contact with an immunosuppressed person, are also eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Both COVID-19 vaccination enhanced service (ES) specifications have been updated to cover eligible children and young people. Practices who have only signed up to phases 1 and 2 have until 23:59 on 13 August to opt out of the ES if they do not wish to vaccinate this cohort.
NHS England said guidance would be available shortly to help practices run searches for those patients aged 12 to 15 who are eligible for vaccination. Practices who have opted out of delivering vaccinations to this cohort will also be required to run these searches to ensure their patients can be vaccinated elsewhere.
NHS England's update said that all vaccination sites should now prioritise the vaccination of those aged 12 and above to ensure they can receive their first dose before the new school year begins.
Until Public Health England has updated the patient group direction and national protocol to cover children and young people, vaccination sites have been advised to use a patient specific direction to immunise these patients.
PCN sites have also been advised to ensure they have processes in place to ensure that 16- and 17-year-olds only receive one dose of the vaccine until further information is provided.
The National Booking System is being updated to reflect the changes, but mass vaccination and pharmacy sites and hospital hubs have all been told to make walk-in appointments available for children and young people providing they have eligibility checks in place.
The ES covering phases 1 and 2 of the vaccination programme has been extended until 31 October to allow any PCNs not taking part in phase 3 – which also includes delivering COVID-19 booster jabs – to complete remaining second doses.
Updated enhanced service
The ES for phase 3 of the programme has also been updated to specify that if the JCVI recommends that flu and COVID-19 booster jabs can be provided at the same time PCN sites should ensure the flu jab is also administered 'if possible'.
GP surgeries who deliver flu jabs at PCN level this year will be treated as a ‘temporary single medical practice’ under the new flu enhanced service specification released this week - and can vaccinate from any site within the group.
GPonline understands that most GP practices have signed up to deliver COVID-19 booster vaccinations this autumn.