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Pharmacy teams could be offered 3rd dose of COVID jab from September

Healthcare professionals, including pharmacy teams, could be offered a booster dose of COVID-19 jab from September, following interim advice from the JCVI.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the NHS to plan to offer COVID-19 booster vaccines from September 2021, in a two-stage programme expected to run alongside the flu vaccination service.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DH) has specified that the final JCVI advice could differ from the interim advice – which UK ministers welcomed last night (June 30).

A final version of the advice, which will take into consideration “the latest epidemiological situation, additional scientific data from trials such as Cov-Boost, real-time surveillance of the effectiveness of the vaccines over time and emerging variants”, will be published before September.

A two-stage programme

The JCVI interim advice recommends that clinically vulnerable adults, those aged 70 and over and frontline health and social care workers are among the first to receive the booster dose – alongside the flu vaccination – in September as part of stage one of the programme.

A Public Health England spokesperson told C+D today (July 1) that this first cohort will include community pharmacy teams.

After stage one is completed, the JCVI advised that all adults over 50 should be offered the COVID-19 booster dose “with equal emphasis on the deployment of the influenza vaccine”.

The government is working with the NHS to ensure a booster programme can start from September. More details will be shared in due course, the DH said.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock said at a Sigma Pharmaceuticals webinar last week that he wanted this winter’s COVID booster vaccinations and flu service to be delivered by pharmacy, as “we need GPs to be back in surgeries practising medicine”.

In parallel with flu season programme

The JCVI suggested that the booster programme could run alongside the national flu vaccination programme, with further details on the latter to be shared “in due course”.

Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “Fewer or no restrictions will mean that other respiratory viruses, particularly flu, will make a comeback and quite possibly be an additional problem this winter, so we will need to ensure protection against flu as well as maintaining protection against COVID-19.”

In February, pharmacies in England were advised to order their flu stock for the 2021/22 flu season “on the basis” of the record number of jabs they administered in 2020/21.

NHS England and NHS Improvement told contractors at the time that the 2021/22 flu programme could also be extended to other cohorts, as it did for the 2020/21 service

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