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GPs to deliver new autumn RSV vaccination programme

by Rima Evans
26 June 2024

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GP practices in England have been asked to vaccinate older adults against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), starting 1 September.

The new RSV vaccination programme will be included as an essential service under the GP contract, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said, with contracting details due to follow from NHS England.

Practices will be required to undertake call/recall for patients as they become eligible for the jab from 1 September.

The move follows the JCVI’s recommendation last year that a cost-effective RSV immunisation programme should be developed to protect over-75s and infants. It recommended a one-off campaign with an initial offer covering several age cohorts, followed by a routine programme for those turning 75.

Alongside general practice, a number of community pharmacies will also be commissioned to deliver the programme.

A letter sent to surgeries, ICBs and trusts this week outlined that:

  • All adults turning 75 years old on or after 1 September 2024 will be eligible for the routine programme and should be offered a single dose of the RSV vaccine on or after their 75th birthday.
  • A one-off catch-up campaign for those already aged 75 to 79 years old on 1 September 2024 ‘should be undertaken at the earliest opportunity with the aim of completing the majority by 31 August 2025’.
  • In line with JCVI guidance, individuals will remain eligible until the day before their 80th birthday, with the exception of people who turn 80 in the first year who have until 31 August 2025 to get vaccinated.

‘To offer the best protection, we are asking systems and providers to vaccinate as many people as possible during September and October 2024 prior to the expected RSV season’ the letter said.

‘Details of how the service will be commissioned will be shared via an NHS England deployment note and relevant contracting arrangements will be put in place accordingly.’

‘Accurate and timely recording of all vaccines given, and good management of all associated documentation, is essential as per the standards set out in the GMS Regulations and Statement of Financial Entitlement (SFE)’.

The letter also said that ‘funding will be part of the Public Health Allocation to regional commissioners annually to disseminate, as required locally’.

Meanwhile, to protect infants, all women who are at least 28 weeks pregnant on 1 September 2024, should be offered a single dose of the RSV vaccine, with providers aiming to vaccinate that cohort as soon as possible. After that, pregnant women will become eligible for the vaccine as they reach 28 weeks gestation and will remain eligible up to birth.

The letter says the 28-week antenatal appointment would be the ‘ideal opportunity to offer vaccination’.

However, it also added that for this group, ‘opportunistic or on request GP delivery of immunisations will be commissioned as an essential service in the GP contract’.

High-risk infants ‘should also receive passive immunisation against RSV in accordance with criteria in the Green Book, chapter 27a regardless of whether the mother was vaccinated during the pregnancy’, the DHSC letter said.

The vaccine to be used for both the older adult and the infant programmes is the bivalent recombinant vaccine developed by Pfizer called Abrysvo, which was licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in November last year.

It is expected to be available to order from early August via the ImmForm website. Practices should hold no more than 2 weeks’ worth of stock, the DHSC has recommended.

Practices can order free patient-facing resources from Health Publications.

What is RSV?

RSV is a common respiratory virus that that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms but can cause serious lung infections.

While RSV infection can occur at any age, the risk and severity of RSV and its complications are increased in older adults and in neonates and small babies, and it has a considerable impact on individuals and NHS services during the winter months.

A typical RSV season in the UK starts in October, peaks in December and declines by March.

For older adults in the UK, it is estimated that RSV leads to 175,000 GP visits and 14,000 hospital admissions annually.

RSV also accounts for approximately 33,500 hospitalisations annually in children aged under 5 years old. 

Main source: DHSC