Get a Covid booster jab at the chemist: Pharmacists will give third vaccine dose with flu injection in nationwide top-up drive
- Government scientists announced Wednesday top-up vaccines will be offered
- This would potentially include all over-50s, frontline health and care workers
- It will begin in early September and finish by mid December, just three months
Pharmacists will give out Covid booster jabs this autumn under highly ambitious plans to re-vaccinate half of all Britons.
Government scientists announced on Wednesday that the top-up vaccines would be offered to up to 32million patients starting from September.
This would potentially include all over-50s, frontline health and care workers, as well as younger adults with long-term conditions. The boosters would be given at the same time as the flu jab.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will issue final recommendations on who should get the booster jabs
Until now, the majority of Covid vaccines have been delivered by GPs – or other healthcare workers under their supervision – in surgeries or in mass vaccination centres.
Only a handful of high street chemists have given out the first and second doses, including branches of Superdrug and Boots and some independent stores. Guidance from NHS England yesterday urged health trusts to spread capacity across community pharmacies, vaccination centres and general practices in order to ‘ease pressure’ in other areas of the health service.
Although pharmacists are fully trained to administer the jabs – and regularly do flu and travel inoculations – the fact they are being called up underlines just how challenging this booster campaign could prove to be.
This graph shows hospitalisations in the third wave (blue line) are far lower than in the second wave (red line) thanks to jabs
It will begin in early September and finish by mid December, a little over three months, to ensure immunity kicks in before infections rise again this winter. By comparison, administering the first doses of the Covid vaccine to this population earlier this year took just over four months.
There are also concerns about supply issues and this could prove particularly problematic if scientists recommend a different jab to the previous two doses, a ‘mix and match’ approach.
Many adults had the AstraZeneca vaccine, meaning they would need to have Pfizer or Moderna for their booster, and stocks are tight for both.
The guidance from NHS England, which went out to GPs, health trusts and community pharmacists, says: ‘Although general practices delivered the majority of vaccines in phase 1, spreading capacity across all delivery models will provide resilience and ease pressure on other services and workforces.’
The document also urges trusts to consider using pop-up clinics and vaccine buses to maximise uptake. It states: ‘Consider the best delivery access for your population requirements, making the most of community pharmacies, pop ups, mobile units and other approaches. Convenience builds uptake through ease of access.’
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will issue final recommendations on who should get the booster jabs later this summer, and whether they will get different doses to their previous two.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, yesterday said doctors urgently needed to know how the booster campaign would work.
He said: ‘It’s good to have clarity that there will be a Covid-19 booster vaccination campaign this autumn, but we still need to know how this will work – in particular, how it will work alongside the annual flu vaccination programme and what the role of general practice will likely be – as a matter of urgency.
Until now, the majority of Covid vaccines have been delivered by GPs – or other healthcare workers under their supervision – in surgeries or in mass vaccination centres
‘General practice is already under intense pressure delivering record numbers of patient consultations and this must be taken into account.
‘A booster campaign will need to be accompanied by a sustainable workforce, perhaps using trained non-clinical staff as vaccinators alongside GPs and our teams, to ensure usual services can continue as we approach what is likely to be a very busy winter.’
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts said: ‘We really welcome this and it’s really good to plan, but we have to remember that this needs to be on a sustainable footing.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee said: ‘GPs are already preparing for this winter’s flu campaign, and will be keen to continue to play a pivotal role in protecting their patients against Covid-19 with booster jabs alongside this.
‘Practices are under intense pressure and they must be given support and the flexibility to take part in the booster campaign in a way that works best for their patients.’
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