GP-led vaccination sites should bring forward second-dose appointments from 12 to eight weeks for all risk group patients who have yet to be fully vaccinated, NHS England has said.
The new guidance applies to ‘all second dose appointments for those in cohorts 1-9 scheduled on or after 25 May’ where that is more than eight weeks after their first dose, a new letter from NHS England said.
The Government made the decision in a bid to tackle rising cases of the Indian (B1.617.2) variant in parts of the country, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
This is to ‘ensure people across the UK have the strongest possible protection from the virus at an earlier opportunity’.
Those aged under 50 will continue to get their first dose, with their second dose at 12 weeks, the letter said.
PCNs should use existing stock in the network, and that ‘revised second dose supply delivery schedules will be communicated shortly in the usual way’.
The letter added: ‘If PCN sites have exhausted all opportunities to bring forward second doses and still have insufficient capacity to bring forward second-dose AstraZeneca clinics, they may wish to redirect patients to book via the NBS.’
Additional financial support and communication material will be made available to PCNs to cover the administration costs of this activity, with further information to be shared ‘shortly’.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 Chair for JCVI, said: Due to the rapid rise in cases of the B1.617.2 Variant of Concern and notable transmission in parts of the country, the JCVI advises that every effort is made to promote vaccine uptake in those who remain unvaccinated in priority cohorts 1 to 9 – these people remain at highest risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
The Government said last week that it may send additional doses of the Covid vaccine to areas where variants of concerns are spreading, including to bring forward second doses. But Blackburn health chiefs said they were stopped by the Government from widening eligibility to everyone over 18.
The Government has since announced that it will work to accelerate vaccine uptake amongst eligible cohorts’ in the badly-affected areas of Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen.
This includes extra vaccine deliveries to Bolton and extended opening of vaccination facilities in Blackburn. In Bolton, a roving team of vaccinators will also visit local businesses to target people who may not be able to get time off work.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘It’s vital we do everything we can and use every resource we have to ensure we continue to keep the nation safe. We have implemented measures at record pace to get on top of this new variant and control the spread.’
The NHS administered a total of 56.7 million vaccines between 8 December and 15 May, including 36.6 million people with their first dose (69.4%) and 20.1 million with their second (38.2%), the Government said yesterday.
This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.