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COVID-19 update 17 December: Vaccination guidance, rules for close contacts

A round-up of key COVID-19 guidance changes for GP practices.

People waiting in line next to a sign that says 'queue here for COVID-19 vaccination'
(Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Opted-out PCNs urged to resume COVID-19 jabs

PCNs opted out of the COVID-19 booster campaign have been urged to 'reconsider' as NHS England urged GP-led sites to step up vaccination rates to match or exceed their 'best day' in earlier phases.

Operational guidance from NHS England calls on PCNs that opted out of delivering booster jabs to JCVI cohorts 10-12 to 'please urgently reconsider your participation'.

NHS England also urges practices that are not participating in the COVID-19 vaccination programme to 'urgently support their local vaccination efforts' - urging them to 'liaise with their local commissioner to discuss signing up to the [enhanced service] or offering workforce to their vaccination site'.

At sites delivering COVID-19 vaccinations, the advice says capacity should be increased 'to the same level or above your best day in phases 1 and 2' - while PCNs are 'strongly encouraged' to open seven days per week, and to open from 8am to 8pm.

Full details of current guidance to practices is in this story here.

15-minute wait after COVID-19 jabs temporarily suspended

The 15-minute observation period for patients who receive a dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine has been temporarily suspended to speed up the booster drive.

The move came after the UK's four CMOs advised that maintaining the 15-minute wait 'will cause more harm than it will avert' given the need to accelerate delivery of vaccinations in the face of a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The Green Book chapter on COVID-19 vaccinations has been updated to reflect the change in advice.

National protocols and PGDs for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have also been updated. You can find all of these here.

Second jabs for 12- to 15-year-olds

Children aged 12- to 15-years old will be able to book the second dose of their vaccine on the national booking system from Monday 20 December, the government has announced.

Full details of second jabs for this group are here.

Rules for staff who are close contacts

Vaccinated NHS staff will no longer be required to self-isolate for 10 days if they are in contact with a case of the Omicron variant, after the UK Health Security Agency updated its guidance.

Updated guidance published on Wednesday 15 December removes the requirement for self isolation. The new guidance means GPs and practice staff will be expected to follow the same rules as applied before the Omicron variant emerged.

NHS England also sent out this letter confirming details of the change.

NHS staff who are in contact with a case at work while they are wearing correct PPE are not classed as a close contact.

Fully-vaccinated staff who are identified as a close contact of a case of COVID-19 are required to take a PCR test and not return to work until they receive a negative result. They are also expected to take  daily lateral flow tests for 10 days following their contact with the case. These should be taken before the come into work each day.

Anyone who has had COVID-19 themselves within the past 90 days do not need to have a PCR test but should undertake daily lateral flow tests for 10 days.

These rules apply to those who are at least 14 days after their second dose of the vaccine. However, the NHS England letter advises that 'the definition of fully vaccinated for staff may be changed... to include having had a booster vaccine; therefore, NHS organisations are encouraged to make sure staff are offered a booster as soon as possible and encourage those staff who are not yet vaccinated to take up the evergreen offer'.

Staff members who are unvaccinated, partly vaccinated or exempt should not attend work for 10 days, or should be redeployed so they can work from home.

COVID-19 guidance tracker

Don't forget that our COVID-19 GP guidance tracker provides a list of guidance relevant to GP practices in an easy-to-search format. The tracker is regularly updated and you can find it here.

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