Community pharmacies to lead on vaccinations for 5-11 year olds
Community pharmacy-led Covid vaccination sites will be the main providers of jabs for children aged 5 to 11, NHS England & Improvement has said.
NHSE&I outlined plans to vaccinate the younger cohort on Friday in the wake of new advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation stating that children aged 5 to 11 who are not in a clinical risk group should be given a “non-urgent offer” of two 10mcg doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with an interval of at least 12 weeks between doses.
While this group is at low risk from serious illness from coronavirus infection, a small number who contract Covid develop severe disease, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
“Community pharmacy-led local vaccination services and vaccination centres should be the primary delivery models for this cohort,” said NHSE&I in a letter to ICS leads, NHS trust executives and vaccination sites.
Vaccinations for this group will start from the beginning of April.
The decision not to make primary care network groupings the main providers was taken due to “the ongoing workload for general practice,” as well as current capacity levels in the vaccination programme and the “need to reconfigure sites to create an age-appropriate offer for 5 to 11-year olds”.
“Assured PCN groupings” may be commissioned where there is sufficient need, but are required to “consider taking on additional appropriately trained staff to support this cohort and continue to maintain their core areas of work caring for their populations”.
NHSE&I said providers should “make sure there is adequate time for families to have conversations about vaccine safety, including taking any opportunities to discuss other vaccinations and immunisations that children may require”.
It added: “Sites should be as child-friendly as possible… careful consideration needs to be given to child safety and infection prevention and control.”
The national booking system will be updated to allow for longer appointment times for this age group, said NHSE&I, adding that the contractual arrangements for vaccinating this cohort will be published “shortly”.
Last October, former NHSE&I primary care strategy director Ed Waller said around 1,300 community pharmacy-led sites were offering booster vaccinations.
Pharmacy Network News has approached NHSE&I to learn how many sites are currently operational and what number of these will be asked to provide jabs to under-11s.
Earlier this afternoon, the Government announced that from the coming spring a fourth round of vaccination will be offered to people aged 75 and over, care home residents and the immunosuppressed.