NHS England has said GP-led sites will not receive any new first-dose Covid vaccine deliveries at all over this week and next, Nursing in Practice‘s sister title Pulse has reported.
Speaking in a GP webinar on Thursday evening last week, NHS England primary care director Dr Nikki Kanani said this applied to the weeks commencing 12 and 19 April.
The Government had warned that vaccine supply would take a dip in April amid delivery issues, but the health secretary Matt Hancock had previously said some first doses would continue in every week of the month.
Dr Kanani told GPs: ‘We do have a reduced supply over the coming weeks which is why there are no new first-dose deliveries on the week of 12 or 19 April.’
As an exception, practices could be given ‘baby boxes’ of Pfizer stock to deliver alternative first jabs to unvaccinated, at-risk under-30s if ‘there’s not enough Pfizer available locally’, NHS England director of primary care vaccination Caroline Temmink told GPs in yesterday’s webinar.
However, they should use ‘residual vaccine’ from second dose allocations as a ‘first point of call’ or redirect patients to another local site where an alternative vaccine is available, she said.
Referring to the guidance to offer under-30s an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine for their first jab amid blood clot reports, Dr Kanani advised GPs not to offer alternatives to under-30s who simply refused their second AZ dose without medical grounds.
Pointing to the supply constraints, she told said: ‘We’re trying really hard not to do that as you can imagine.’
While under-30s will be offered an alternative first dose, those who already had the AZ vaccine as their first jab should still be given a second AZ dose, according to JCVI advice.
NHS England did not supply a comment but a spokesperson stressed GP-led sites can give the vaccine to patients in cohorts 1-9.
The news comes as the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed to Pulse that all under-30s will be offered an alternative to the AZ vaccine when they become eligible for their first vaccine dose.
Previously published guidance this week had said JCVI was still ‘finalising its advice’ for the second phase of the vaccination programme, which includes everyone under the age of 50 and for which a start date has not yet been set.
But a spokesperson told Pulse that the Government’s acceptance of the advice to offer an alternative vaccine to cohort 1-9 under-30s also applied to cohorts 10-12.
GPs have warned of unintended consequences from the Government’s latest AstraZeneca Covid vaccine advice, including creating ‘panic’ among patients and adding to the workload of already pressured practices.
The news comes as Public Health England has estimated that 10,400 deaths from Covid-19 have been avoided due to the vaccination programme to the end of March.
It said this included 9,100 deaths in those aged 80 and over, 1,200 in those aged 70 to 79 and 100 in those aged 60 to 69.