Start dates for the flu and Covid vaccination programmes in England have changed again and will now commence on 11 September following the identification of a new Covid variant, the Government has announced.
GPs will also be given additional payments for administering the Covid jabs, NHS England has confirmed in a letter to practices issued today.
Previously, the enhanced service specification for Covid vaccines set out that GPs will be paid £7.54 for each vaccine administered – down from £10.06 – and continue to be paid £10 for each housebound patient.
However, to support the new accelerated programme, there will now be an additional fee of £5 per Covid dose given to eligible patient groups, and an additional £10 fee for residents of care homes. There will also be a separate one-off £200 payment made for each completed care home.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that wherever possible, patients receiving the Covid vaccination should also be offered their annual flu vaccine at the same time.
Earlier this month, the start date for flu and Covid vaccinations was pushed back to October. The latest change to the programme, which will now run from 11 September for completion by the end of October, has been made as a ‘precautionary measure’ after the Covid variant BA.2.86 was first detected in the UK on Friday 18 August .
According to the latest risk assessment by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), BA.2.86 has a high number of mutations and has appeared in several countries in individuals without travel history.
In the letter to GPs, NHS England national director for vaccination and screening, Steve Russell said: ‘While it is difficult to predict the combined effect of the large number of mutations on severity, vaccine escape and transmissibility, expert advice is clear that this represents the most concerning new variant since Omicron first emerged.
‘The UKHSA has determined the most appropriate intervention with the greatest potential public health impact is to vaccinate all those eligible, quickly.
‘Following this advice, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has asked NHS England to bring the vaccination programme forward, to start earlier, and to accelerate delivery of the programme to vaccinate eligible people more quickly.
‘We would like as many people as possible to have been vaccinated by the end of October. DHSC are providing additional support to the NHS to enable this to happen.’
The deadline for practices wanting to sign up to delivering the programmes has been until 5pm on 4 September and the eligible cohorts remain unchanged.
The National Booking Service will be opened for sites to upload Covid appointments from 7 September.
There is no change to flu vaccination for children, NHS England has said.
Chief executive of the UKHSA, Dame Jenny Harries, said bringing forward the vaccination campaign was a ‘precautionary measure’.
‘There is limited information available at present on BA.2.86 so the potential impact of this particular variant is difficult to estimate. As with all emergent and circulating Covid-19 variants – both in the UK and internationally – we will continue to monitor BA.2.86 and to advise government and the public as we learn more,’ she said.