Photo: Kirsty O’Connor / PA Wire
By Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent
The NHS is preparing for the prospect of an annual Covid-19 booster vaccine program should the need arise, the head of the NHS in England has said.
At present, it is not clear whether Covid-19 vaccine boosters will be an annual requirement – equivalent to the annual winter flu jab program – but the NHS is already making plans to enable the delivery of an annual vaccine campaign if it required, Amanda Pritchard said.
The CEO of NHS England also suggested that there could be “further extensions” to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) advice on vaccines.
On Monday (November 15), JCVI recommended that the booster program be expanded to include all adults aged 40 and over, as well as provide new recommendations for other jabs for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Speaking to the NHS Providers Annual Conference, Ms Pritchard said: “We had the latest advice from JCVI yesterday to expand (boosters) to over 40s, as well as give second dose to 16 and 17 year olds, and I think we can expect further expansions in the future.
“We are already considering how we can make annual booster vaccines if needed.”
Mrs Pritchard urged people to accept vaccination invitations “as soon as possible” when called, noting that a third of people take between two and five weeks to arrive and book after being contacted about and booster jab.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Social Care said 13 million boosters or third jabs have been given so far across the UK – including over a million in the last three days.
Ms Pritchard said the NHS was facing a “winter like no other” but vaccines “prevented a far worse situation where the boosters helped tackle declining immunity”, but the job of the vaccination program was “not done yet”.
“Our message must continue to be: please come forward as soon as possible when it’s your turn,” she added.
She urged NHS leaders to redouble their efforts to encourage vaccinated staff to get their Covid-19 jab.
“To those colleagues who have not yet accepted the offer, I would urge you to do so as soon as possible, to also protect yourself, your families and your patients,” she said.
“And for you as leaders – especially clinical leaders – it’s crucial that we redouble our efforts to support those of our colleagues who are not medically exempt and who are still doubting whether to get their first Covid vaccine.
“Not only because of the intention of the government last week, but because we believe it is the right thing to do, because we care about them and our patients, we want them to be as safe as possible, and honestly we need every member of the NHS staff to be there for the patients. “
Mrs Pritchard also highlighted how the phrase “necessity is the mother of innovation” had proved true during the pandemic.
She said a national video consulting platform for hospital services saw a “large expansion of people who chose this option”, leading to a reduction of 2.1 million hours of waiting time for patients.
But she said that as technology evolves, the NHS must “always pay attention to digital exclusion and literacy” and ensure that there are “non-digital routes available that are just as good for those who want them and need them. for them.”
It comes as the government said a further 214 people had died within 28 days of being tested positive for Covid-19 from Tuesday, bringing the total number in the UK to 143,159.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that there have now been 168,000 deaths recorded in the UK, with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate.
From kl. By Tuesday, there had been a further 37,243 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the government said.
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