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Primary care ‘should not underestimate’ planning for Covid booster programme, NHS Confederation warns

by Jess Hacker
2 July 2021

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The amount of work required to plan for the Covid-19 booster programme should not be underestimated, the NHS Confederation has warned.

Responding to guidance published yesterday (1 July) outlining the autumn/winter booster campaign, the Confederation welcomed the clarity but highlighted the extra associated workload.

Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation, said: ‘We should not, however, underestimate the amount of work needed to plan for this amid the workload providers across the system are currently facing and alongside the traditional flu vaccination programme.’

She added that while plans to share this workload with 1,000 community pharmacy sites are welcome, it is ‘disappointing’ not to see the GP Federations’ role acknowledged.

Primary care providers now need to see confirmation of the available funding and supplies, she said, including ‘guarantees’ that they will be available ‘when and where they are needed at every stage, from first doses to boosters’.

Three months to plan

Practices and vaccination centres should prepare to deliver Covid-19 booster shots between 6 September and 17 December 2021, NHSE announced yesterday.

While this will remain flexible based on ‘several clinical trials over the course of the summer’, vaccination sites should aim to vaccinate people ‘as quickly and safely as possible’ in two stages over the 15-week period, it said.

NHSE also confirmed that the third booster shot should be offered to all adults aged 50 years and over, adults over 16 who are in an influenza or Covid-19 at-risk group, and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed people.

Practices to deliver 75% of boosters

GP practices are expected to deliver a maximum of 75% of Covid booster vaccines.

The letter outlined that commissioners should ‘prudently plan’, with GP-led sites expected to deliver a minimum of 40% of the shots.

In addition, NHSE set out that local systems should plan to co-administer flu and Covid vaccines in a single appointment by pooling stock.

And local systems have been told to plan to co-administer flu and Covid vaccines in a single appointment by ‘pooling’ GP practice flu stock, it added.

It said: ‘In the majority of cases, local systems should therefore prudently plan for a minimum of 40% of Covid-19 booster vaccination through general practice and a maximum of 75%, drawing on the expertise of local authorities and subject to any agreement with local PCNs.’