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Deja-flu: NHS confirms COVID booster campaign and flu jab launch dates

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has confirmed when pharmacies will begin delivering the flu vaccination and COVID-19 booster programmes, with patients set to receive Moderna’s “new next generation bivalent” jab. 

The booster campaign will formally begin on September 12, NHSE&I national director for vaccinations and screening Steve Russell and NHSE&I deputy lead for the COVID-19 vaccination programme Nikita Kanani wrote in a letter to community pharmacies and commissioners yesterday (August 18).

“We expect all sites to be vaccinating at full operational capacity from September 19,” they added.

While the flu programme will start on September 1 as usual, NHSE&I is asking providers to prioritise COVID-19 and flu vaccinations in care home, which are expected to begin in the week commencing September 5.


Read more: Pharmacists no longer required to take flu jab refresher every three years


Opportunities should be maximised “to co-promote and co-administer” the flu and COVID-19 boosters “where possible and clinically advised, especially where this improves patient experience and uptake”, Dr Kanani and Mr Russell wrote.

But “this should not unduly delay administration of either jab”, NHSE&I noted.


More than 1,600 pharmacies included in programme


As of August 17, 1,653 pharmacy-led vaccination sites were signed up to offer COVID-19 vaccines, according to data from NHSE&I.

While all sites should be vaccinating at “full operational capacity” from September 19, vaccinations should be offered to all eligible groups by the start of December, Mr Russell and Dr Kanani announced in the letter.

“The secretary of state has also asked the NHS to put plans in place to accelerate the programme, should it be necessary, and bring forward the end date, if clinically advised and operationally viable,” they added.


Read more: Less than 1 in 3 interested pharmacies accepted onto COVID booster programme


In line with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s recommendation earlier this week, NHSE&I “will deploy a single type of vaccine” – the newly approved mRNA bivalent Omicron BA.1/Original “wild-type” vaccine – for booster doses, they added.

In a separate statement released yesterday, NHSE&I confirmed that the newly approved vaccine will be offered  “where appropriate and subject to sufficient supply being made available to the NHS”.

Site allocation for the first four weeks of the autumn campaign is expected to be announced today (August 19).

Following the allocation, pharmacy vaccination sites will be able to order vaccination stock from August 23, “in readiness for delivery on the week commencing September 5”, Mr Russell and Dr Kanani added.

“Ordering deadlines continue to be in line with corresponding fixed delivery day routines.”


PGD “updated by August 31”


The UK Health Security Agency is currently updating the patient group directive (PGD) and the national protocol, Mr Russell and Dr Kanani wrote.

“We expect the PGD to be updated by August 31 and the national protocol to follow shortly after,” they said.


Read more: Manufacturers on track to meet demand after U-turn on free flu jabs for over-50s


Earlier this week, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee announced that pharmacists who administer flu vaccines will no longer need to undertake face-to-face refresher training on vaccine technique every three years.

Meanwhile, last year it was revealed that as of the end of September 2021, while 4,733 pharmacy contractors had submitted 5,376 expressions of interest to take part in the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme, only 1,454 had been accepted.


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