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COVID-19 booster programme: how it will affect nursing staff

The government has brought forward the target for giving every adult in England a COVID booster jab by a month, despite concerns about ‘scale and pace’

The government has brought forward the target for giving every adult in England a COVID booster jab by a month, despite concerns about ‘scale and pace’

Nursing leaders have expressed concern about the ‘scale and pace’ of the COVID-19 vaccine programme expansion – which aims to vaccine almost 1 million people a day amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The government has brought forward the target for giving every adult in England a booster jab by a month, with health and social care secretary Sajid Javid pledging that it will ‘throw everything’ at the booster programme. Here, we look at the logistics of the programme and implications for nursing staff and patients.

What has changed?

The

The government has brought forward the target for giving every adult in England a COVID booster jab by a month, despite concerns about ‘scale and pace’

The government has brought forward the target for giving every adult in England a booster jab by a month
Picture: Frank Augstein/AP/Shutterstock

Nursing leaders have expressed concern about the ‘scale and pace’ of the COVID-19 vaccine programme expansion – which aims to vaccine almost 1 million people a day amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The government has brought forward the target for giving every adult in England a booster jab by a month, with health and social care secretary Sajid Javid pledging that it will ‘throw everything’ at the booster programme. Here, we look at the logistics of the programme and implications for nursing staff and patients.

What has changed?

The target of offering a COVID-19 booster jab to every adult has been brought forward from the end of January to the end of December. The Westminster government will provide additional support to accelerate vaccinations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

How will this be achieved?

Extra vaccine sites will be opened and additional mobile units deployed, clinic opening hours are to be extended to allow people to be vaccinated around the clock and at weekends, while thousands more vaccinators will be trained.

The Ministry of Defence said that about 750 military personnel will be drafted in to assist with the programme in England and Scotland, including delivering vaccines and logistical planning. St John Ambulance has also made an urgent appeal for volunteers to help the vaccination effort.

What does the accelerated booster programme mean for other parts of the NHS?

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the focus on boosters will mean some routine appointments will need to be postponed until the new year.

NHS England said GP teams will be asked to clinically prioritise their services to free up capacity to support the booster programme.

Post-vaccine ‘observation time’ could be scrapped

Waiting times for observation after COVID-19 jabs could be scrapped or reduced under plans to speed up vaccination efforts.

The Press Association has reported that the four UK chief medical officers are understood to be reviewing whether the current 15-minute waiting time can safely be reduced or scrapped.

The wait time was introduced after two NHS staff experienced allergic reactions on the first day of the vaccine programme in 2020.

But some healthcare professionals have warned it can ‘reduce the efficiency’ of vaccination centres.

What do nursing leaders think?

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said nursing staff have already played a leading role in the delivery of vaccines and stand ready to do the same again.

‘However, we are concerned about the scale and pace of this expansion, given these same nurses are already facing huge demands under existing unsustainable pressures in every part of the UK health and care system,’ Ms Cullen said.

Are there any projections on how Omicron could affect the health service?

Modelling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests Omicron has the potential to cause a wave of transmission in England that could lead to higher levels of cases and hospitalisations than those seen during January 2021, if additional control measures are not taken.


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