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Last-minute expansion of COVID-19 and flu jabs threatens ‘severe problems’ for GPs

The federal government has backed Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommendation for flu and COVID-19 booster campaigns this autumn to broaden to over-50s and at-risk sufferers from the age of 5 – widening the scope of its recommendation from interim plans revealed in Might.

Greater than 26m sufferers are prone to be eligible for COVID-19 booster jabs this autumn below the expanded rollout – with a dose set to be supplied to all sufferers in JCVI cohorts 1-9 who acquired their earlier dose not less than three months earlier.

However GPs say the last-minute announcement, which got here a day after the window closed for GP practices to enroll in the subsequent part of the COVID-19 vaccination marketing campaign, threatens to trigger ‘extreme issues’ for already struggling practices.

GP stress

BMA GPC scientific and prescribing coverage lead Dr Preeti Shukla mentioned practices could possibly be compelled to rearrange deliberate clinics, and warned {that a} lack of centrally-procured vaccine provide might go away main care struggling to manage.

She mentioned: ‘Each COVID-19 boosters and flu vaccines are very important public well being measures and rising the variety of folks they’re supplied to will help relieve winter pressures on the NHS at a extremely careworn time for the service.

‘Nevertheless, we’ve got severe issues that the dearth of organisation with which this announcement has been made goes to trigger extreme issues for practices.’

She warned that the choice to broaden the flu vaccination marketing campaign ‘months after the annual flu letter went out to suppliers in March’ would trigger important issues for GP practices heading into winter.

Vaccine provide

Dr Shukla mentioned: ‘Many practices will have already got their flu programmes for the 2022/23 season deliberate out and might want to reassess and doubtlessly reorganise their vaccine provides at a late stage to make sure that sufferers who want a vaccine can entry one. That’s placing unfair stress on already dangerously overstretched GP practices.

‘We will surely have anticipated DHSC to have procured and provided further vaccines centrally, as in earlier years when further age cohorts had been added to the flu vaccine programme late within the day. It’s particularly disappointing that as an alternative the burden and duty is being handed on to practices. The latest far-too-short signup window for the COVID-19 vaccination enhanced service can even have practices feeling unfairly pressured.

‘We urge DHSC to make sure readability of vaccine provide traces as quickly as attainable to allow practices to get on with making the mandatory preparations. It should additionally take an enormous effort from commissioners in any respect ranges of NHS England and built-in care techniques to make sure that there may be assist for practices in each sourcing further vaccines and in managing any potential fluctuations in vaccine provide that outcome from this.’

Dr Shukla warned that shortages of vaccine provide might exacerbate well being inequalities becase ‘recipients usually turn into these quickest to guide their jabs relatively than these most in want’.

She added: ‘This gradual decision-making from the highest will solely trigger avoidable stress for GPs. We want well timed, clear data in order that we are able to put within the orders for vaccines with confidence and get on with caring for our sufferers.’

A DHSC spokesperson mentioned: ‘We’ve got taken the choice to widen the eligibility for the flu vaccine to assist scale back the variety of folks getting critically unwell and ease pressures on the NHS, notably in the course of the busy winter interval.

‘During the last two seasons we’ve got had probably the most profitable flu vaccination programme ever, exceeding the World Well being Group’s goal of 75% for these aged 65 years and over and attaining greater uptake in most different cohorts in comparison with earlier years.’

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