Commenting on the updated vaccination guidance from the JCVI, Ruth Rankine, director of the NHS Confederation’s PCN Network, said:
“Our members will welcome the updated vaccination guidance, which provides further clarity on the next stage of the programme. Vaccination by age group remains the simplest to understand for the public, and we hope this will help to support continued strong uptake. It is also reassuring to see there is flexibility in delivery, including to avoid wastage, given the higher risks from COVID-19 to men, people from BME backgrounds, those with higher BMI, and those from more deprived socioeconomic backgrounds. What we now need urgently is the operational guidance that sits behind this so primary care teams are clear on what is required of them and assurance on the vaccine supply.
“With each passing milestone, more people are protected, more deaths prevented, and we move another step closer to re-establishing some sense of normality. Nearly half the UK’s total population has received a first dose, with PHE reporting 10,400 deaths prevented. Second doses are also climbing rapidly and the Moderna vaccine now also in use. This progress is a true testament to the incredible work of our NHS teams, especially in primary care, and to what the health service can achieve, on a huge scale and in a very short space of time. We now look forward to supporting our members with the rollout for those in the next eligible groups.
“However, the Government and the NHS must continue to reassure the public with clear, honest and consistent messaging on the safety and benefits of vaccines, to make sure vaccine confidence is as high as possible. We would also urge the Government to provide clarity on the availability of vaccine supplies, to ensure they are delivered where and when they are needed.
“We must also remember that until everyone is protected, no one is protected. This progress does not mean the crisis is over, as the benefits of the programme will build up over time, and it is still vital that each of us is as cautious as possible, maintaining social distancing and other actions, especially as restrictions are eased. Vaccination is a key weapon in the fight against the virus, but it’s not the only weapon, and other measures are still needed to keep the spread down. The NHS is still facing significant pressures as it works to deliver the vaccination programme alongside treating COVID patients, tackling the growing backlog of other treatment, meeting demand for mental health services, and addressing the needs of those suffering the effects of long COVID.”