The NHS has started delivering Covid booster jabs to people in eligible groups such as those living in residential care homes for older adults, adults aged 50 years or over, and frontline health and social care workers.
In line with new advice set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the NHS vaccination programme will now invite eligible people, who had their second Covid vaccination at least six months ago, for a top up.
Full vaccination rollout will begin from next week, as more vaccination centres and community pharmacy-led sites come online following final checks, giving people further protection from the virus ahead of winter.
People will get a call or text from their local GP-led site to get the jab, or will be invited by the National Booking Service, which will start issuing invitations from next week.
We need to prevent more GPs from burning out
The Royal College of GPs have appealed to patients to wait until they are called for the vaccine and not to contact their surgery. It said GPs themselves have only just had this news confirmed and need to accommodate arrangements around the existing needs of patients.
Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs , said the announcement shows that this pandemic is far from over and also demonstrates the urgent need for the Government to deliver on its pledges and get additional resource and support into general practice as quickly as possible.
"Patient care must be safe,' he said. 'And we need to prevent more GPs from burning out or having to leave the profession for the sake of their own health.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and Deputy Lead for the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme said: “Alongside one of our busiest summers in the NHS, our hardworking staff have also been gearing up to deliver the autumn booster programme, to give further protection to healthcare and social care workers and those most at risk from the virus."
Booster jabs are effective for topping up protection for people who have had both of their jabs from at the very least six months on after their second dose. Yet some of those in the original nine priority groups will not be eligible for the top-up until the new year.
The booster programme will be delivered through existing vaccination sites including pharmacies, hospital hubs, GP practices and vaccine centres.
Professor Marshall added: "General practice was already facing a really tough winter and GPs will need support to manage the additional challenges of the booster programme in addition to our existing and huge workload pressures. In tandem, we’ll also be running the largest-ever flu vaccination, with 36 million people entitled to a vaccine on the NHS, so it’s vital that GP teams are able to rely on sufficient flu vaccine supplies to keep everything running like clockwork."