Covid & Flu Vaccines update – September 2023
A Joint Statement from the College, AOP, FODO and ABDO can be found HERE advising that the Flu and COVID autumn vaccine programmes are being brought forward as a precautionary measure following the identification of a new COVID-19 variant. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised that frontline healthcare workers should be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine in autumn 2023.
Regarding Influenza, the statement advises “Practices (contractors) should make arrangements with their local pharmacy or occupational health provider so that all members of the practice team have access to the influenza (seasonal flu) vaccination in a timely manner. Sector bodies have called on NHS England to fund this and will continue to do so, but at this stage contractors and locums will have to fund this directly.”
As with any period of increasing infection, it is important to support team members to maintain high standards of infection control procedures and minimise the risk posed by infection control complacency.
Covid Booster Update – September 2022
Please note that the National Booking Service in England is now open to healthcare workers. This means that optical teams in England can start to book their vaccination: Book or manage a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Flu vaccinations free of charge for frontline optical staff
Flu vaccines are available free of charge to all frontline optical staff for this influenza season (1 September 2021 to 31 March 2022). Eligible clinical and non-clinical, frontline, patient-facing NHS ophthalmic contractors and their frontline staff may visit a general practice or a community pharmacy to be vaccinated. Please read this letter for full details.
Autumn booster vaccinations
Booster vaccine doses are now available to book via the National Booking Service . You’ll be eligible to book, without waiting to be contacted, if you’re a frontline healthcare worker (which includes optical personnel, as last time) and it’s at least 6 months since you received your 2nd dose. You may be offered a different vaccination centre this time.
You’ll need some proof of eligibility, such as:
- A workplace photo ID,
- A recent letter from your employer (last 3 months), or
- A recent payslip which shows your employer (last 3 months).
We’re currently trying to ascertain what counts as proof if you’re a locum, but the hope is that you can use whichever form of ID you used last time. AOP members can download from here a personalised letter confirming their eligibility for the vaccine, and an editable template to give to staff as their proof, but we have not heard that anyone has needed this form of evidence as yet. You will usually be asked for your NHS number, which can be found here.
FAQs on vaccinations
The College of Optometrists answers many of the practical questions relating to vaccinations, testing and self-isolation.
Vaccinations – second dose
You will be contacted to be invited for your second dose of the vaccine. The NHS England website has FAQs on second doses.
Self-referral for your first dose of Covid-19 vaccine
Since mid-February 2021, the NHS booking website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ has permitted online booking for health and social care workers, and the optical bodies have confirmed that this includes all patient-facing staff in optical practices (not just clinical staff).
You do not need to wait to be contacted by the NHS.
Further information on eligibility is available here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/who-can-get-the-vaccine/
Alternatively, eligible people who cannot use the website can phone 119 free of charge, 7am to 11pm, 7 days a week.
Encouraging uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations
The NHS would like us all to play our part in encouraging uptake of vaccinations. Many sites are running walk in clinics that are advertised locally, or bookings can be made on the National Booking Service (NBS) here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/. The NBS is open to everyone aged 18 and over who is registered with a GP in England. Those not registered with a GP or without an NHS number, may attend a walk-in or pop-up site. Here is a link to the list of all vaccination sites: Coronavirus » List of vaccination sites (england.nhs.uk).
General information about Covid-19 vaccinations
The most recent vaccinations priority list is available from the JCVI.
Bucks Council has produced a comprehensive list of FAQs about the vaccination.
The British Islamic Medical Association has a section dedicated to answering questions about the vaccinations.
NHS England has launched a series of animations aimed at tackling disinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine, available in 17 different languages, and including vaccine safety, how it was tested, how it was developed so quickly, what is in it, and what the side effects are. They are available in the form of short clips and a longer video, and the English versions are also available on YouTube.
NHS England has published Operational Guidance: Vaccination of Frontline Health & Social Care Workers.
For further information on vaccines and vaccination procedures, see Chapter 14a of ‘The Green Book’.