Eligible patients will begin receiving Covid booster vaccines ‘from next week’, the health secretary has announced.
Speaking at parliament today (14 September), Sajid Javid outlined the ‘five pillars’ of the winter plan which included the Government’s plan for vaccinations and booster jabs, test and trace measures, funding for the NHS and social care, flu vaccines and border defences.
Mr Javid confirmed that the Government would be following the JCVI’s advice in that all patients in groups 1-9 of the first phase of the Covid vaccination campaign will have a booster jab six months after their second dose.
‘The NHS will contact people at the right time and no one needs to come forward at this point’, he explained.
This includes everyone over 50 and people with underlying health conditions which make them vulnerable to Covid. It also includes adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
He also outlined the Government’s plan B as:
- communicating need for caution to the public;
- legally mandating face coverings in certain settings;
- reserving the power to mandate Covid passports
- asking people to work from home for a limited time
Meanwhile, medicines regulator MHRA has determined that co-administration of flu and Covid jabs is safe and can go ahead.
However, Mr Javid did not mention the possibility of co-administration of both jabs this upcoming winter.
The JCVI recommended the use of an mRNA vaccine for use in the campaign. This should be a full dose of the Pfizer vaccine, in the first instance, or half dose of the Moderna vaccine as an alternative, it added.
Astra Zeneca’s Covid vaccine, which has also been approved for booster use, can be considered in cases where a patient has an allergy to Pfizer and Moderna.
The booster dose should be given no earlier than six months after the second dose, with patients to be prioritised in the same order as during the first phase of the Covid vaccination campaign.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to give his response to the advice early this afternoon.
It comes as third jabs for immunosuppressed patients were already recommended, with GPs helping to identify eligible patients to receive the jab from this week.
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said that the Government ‘must use community pharmacies to deliver booster jabs’.
She added: ‘Community pharmacies are ready to play a full part in the delivery of Covid booster jabs and must be called upon.
‘With GPs already struggling to cope and busy A&E departments, pharmacies should be used to the maximum this winter because we can help take the pressure off the NHS.
‘Last year we smashed flu vaccination records and delivered nearly 3 million flu jabs. Community pharmacy teams have also been working at many Covid vaccination sites and the feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive, praising their professionalism. We’re known and trusted by our patients. We’re here to play our part,’ she said.
Last week, the Government launched a consolation on making it mandatory for all frontline health and social care staff in England to have a flu and Covid vaccine.
Although he is keeping an ‘open mind’ Mr Javid said it is ‘highly likely’ that frontline NHS staff and those working in social care setting will have to be vaccinated.
However, as it stands, community pharmacy team members are not included in the groups of healthcare staff for whom the Covid and flu vaccine could be mandatory.
Mr Javid also said that PCR testing will continue to be available free of charge, as will symptom-free lateral flow tests.
He also told MPs that lateral flow tests are helping to identify a quarter of all cases
Test and trace will continue to run throughout winter and for those still required to self-isolate, the Government will offer practical and financial support to those eligible.
That will be reviewed at the end of March 2022.