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Minister confirms practices have discretion to honour second-dose Covid vaccine appointments



The minister for Covid vaccine deployment has said it is ‘right’ for GPs to use their judgement on whether to honour existing appointments to administer the second Pfizer vaccine dose.

However, his comments come as NHS England told GPs yesterday that booked appointments ‘need’ to be ‘cancelled and rearranged’.

Several PCNs have decided to keep second-dose appointments, after the BMA said earlier this week they would support any GPs making that decision.

A slide from NHS England’s GP webinar on Covid vaccinations, which took place yesterday evening, said: ‘Second dose patient appointments already booked need to be cancelled and rearranged.’

However, asked on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning whether GPs were ‘wrong’ to give out second doses without delay, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘They will make those decisions ultimately, on local circumstances, and they’re right to have that ability.’

The news comes after the CMOs of all four UK nations instructed vaccination sites to delay second doses until 12 weeks after the first one.

MHRA and JCVI have authorised changes to the timing of the second dose of the vaccine from 3-12 weeks for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and from 4-12 weeks for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Sites which are having to cancel patients and rebook clinics are eligible for a fixed rate payment of £1,000 ‘to recognise the work involved and to support staff costs that may be incurred’, NHS England has said.

To reflect the change, NHS England has also said it will now pay GP sites after the first dose administered rather than after both doses have been administered. 

But Nursing in Practice’s sister title Healthcare Leader has reported on a number of GP sites which have taken the decision to keep existing second-dose appointments in place.

GPs have cited concerns over distress to patients as well as ethical concerns, based on the information given to patients when they consented to receive the first dose.

However, his comments come as NHS England told practices yesterday that booked appointments ‘need’ to be ‘cancelled and rearranged’.

Several PCNs have decided to keep second-dose appointments, after the BMA said earlier this week they would support any GPs making that decision.

A slide from NHS England’s GP webinar on Covid vaccinations, which took place yesterday evening, said: ‘Second dose patient appointments already booked need to be cancelled and rearranged.’

However, asked on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning whether GPs were ‘wrong’ to give out second doses without delay, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘They will make those decisions ultimately, on local circumstances, and they’re right to have that ability.’

The news comes after the CMOs of all four UK nations instructed vaccination sites to delay second doses until 12 weeks after the first one.

MHRA and JCVI have authorised changes to the timing of the second dose of the vaccine from 3-12 weeks for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and from 4-12 weeks for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Sites which are having to cancel patients and rebook clinics are eligible for a fixed rate payment of £1,000 ‘to recognise the work involved and to support staff costs that may be incurred’, NHS England has said.

To reflect the change, NHS England has also said it will now pay GP sites after the first dose administered rather than after both doses have been administered. 

But Pulse’s sister title Healthcare Leader has reported on a number of GP sites which have taken the decision to keep existing second-dose appointments in place.

GPs have cited concerns over distress to patients as well as ethical concerns, based on the information given to patients when they consented to receive the first dose.