NHS England is targeting 75% uptake of flu vaccinations in at-risk groups this season, with GP practices told to consider visiting shielding patients at home, while for others drive-in flu jabs are suggested.
Setting out the plans for this year’s extended vaccination drive, NHS England’s letter also said the new age 50-64 cohort will not be eligible until November/December and only subject to stock availability.
NHS England is also looking at the possibility of hiring extra staff to deliver vaccinations and other ‘alternative delivery approaches’.
GP practices will be expected to call and recall patients, as per contractual arrangements, but NHS England is also developing a national call and recall service to ‘ensure that all eligible patients are informed of their eligibility and are encouraged to get vaccination this season’.
Household contacts to those on the shielded list will not be subject to call and recall arrangments but will be vaccinated ‘opportunistically’, but NHS England still aims for all identified people to be offered vaccination.
NHS England also stressed that it is ‘essential’ to ‘increase flu vaccination levels for those who are living in the most deprived areas and from BAME communities’.
The letter said: ‘This year, we are asking for a concerted effort to significantly increase flu vaccination coverage and achieve a minimum 75% uptake across all eligible groups. Where possible, we expect uptake will be higher than this and a national supply of stock has been procured to ensure demand does not outstrip supply.’
NHS England reiterated that the Department of Health and Social Care will issue guidance in September on how to access the additonal national supply of the adult vaccine, with Pulse previously revealing that GPs will be expected to use their own stocks in the first instance.
GPs should follow existing guidance on immunisations during the pandemic, including on PPE.
To further protect patients from Covid-19 during vaccinations, NHS England said ‘a range of different ways of delivering the flu immunisation programme this year should be considered’.
It said this should include:
- careful appointment planning to minimise waiting times and maintain social distancing when attending
- providing patients with information in advance of their appointment to explain what to expect
- recalling at risk patients if they do not attend in line with contract requirements
- social distancing innovations such as drive-in vaccinations and ‘car as waiting room’ models, if possible
- for those on the Shielded Patient List who are high risk for Covid-19 consider the use of home visits for flu jabs
Meanwhile, hospitals will also be asked to offer vaccinations to pregnant women when they attend maternity appointments and those in clinically at-risk groups when they attend in- and outpatient appointments.
The letter also said that DHSC is ‘exploring options to expand the workforce that is able to administer vaccinations as part of the Covid-19 response’.
Regarding the vaccination of children, the letter added that ‘GP practices should invite children in at-risk groups for vaccination, so that parents understand they have the option of taking up the offer in general practice’.
It also said that this season ‘an inactivated vaccine may be offered to those children whose parents refuse the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) due to the porcine gelatine content’.
PHE will supply the children’s vaccine, but the letter said ‘vaccine availability will not be finalised until late summer’.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) guidance on delivering large-scale immunisation services during Covid-19 has also been published.
In the guidance, the RCN said nurses will have a critical role in implementing the large-scale immunisation programmes required to protect the public this winter.