The Government has outlined that the first priorities for the COVID-19 vaccination programme are the prevention of mortality, and the protection of the NHS and other health and social care systems. As the risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases with age, prioritisation for the vaccine is primarily based on age.
An independent group of experts has recommended that the NHS first offers these vaccines to those at the highest risk of suffering serious complications or death from COVID-19. Once everyone in a priority group has been invited and a significant number of those have been vaccinated, the next group will be invited.
The priority list is as follows:
- residents in a care home for older adults and their carers (eligible)
- all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers (eligible)
- all those 75 years of age and over (eligible)
- all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals – eligible
- all those 65 years of age and over – eligible
- all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality [see below] – eligible
- all those 60 years of age and over – *eligible, see below
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over
*On the 1st March, the Government updated the eligibility criteria for the COVID-19 vaccines to anyone aged 60 and over. You no longer need to wait for a letter to be invited if you are in one of the eligible groups. You should have already been notified by your GP if you are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Vulnerable patients update
There are currently almost 4 million people in England who have been asked to shield until the end of March to protect themselves, and the NHS. This is following new developments from Oxford University, looking closely at the characteristics of people who died in the first wave, to help further understand risk factors.
You should receive a letter from the NHS or your GP surgery notifying you if you fall into this group of people and you’re therefore eligible to book your COVID-19 vaccination.
Help for people managing medication
With the ongoing government lockdown and so many of us shielding or self isolating to help protect each other and the NHS, It’s important we all follow government guidance in order for the spread of the virus to slow and restrictions to be eased. Limiting any unnecessary journeys or queues by ordering online can help this.
Since the first national lockdown, we’ve helped save over 4 million trips outside by delivering medicines directly to our patients’ homes for free, helping to keep us all safe. We will continue to support our patients and the NHS with our service, through the national lockdown and beyond, and are here to welcome anyone who needs our help to get their medication easily and safely.
If you have family or friends with a health condition, we can help them with their NHS repeat prescriptions too.
Clinically extremely vulnerable groups
There are three ways you may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable:
- You have one or more of the conditions listed below, or
- Your clinician or GP has added you to the Shielded Patient List because, based on their clinical judgement, they deem you to be at higher risk of serious illness if you catch the virus.
- You have been identified through the COVID-19 Population Risk Assessment as potentially being at high risk of serious illness if you catch the virus.
People with the following conditions are automatically deemed clinically extremely vulnerable:
- solid organ transplant recipients
- People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- people with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell disease)
- people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection
- problems with your spleen, for example splenectomy (having your spleen removed)
- adults with Down’s syndrome
- adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (stage 5)
- women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
- other people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decisions
- people with specific cancers:
- people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
- people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
- people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- people having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
More guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable can be found here.
Underlying health conditions
There is evidence to suggest that certain underlying health conditions increase the risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
These health conditions are identified as:
- chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis and severe asthma
- chronic heart disease (and vascular disease)
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease
- chronic neurological disease including epilepsy
- Down’s syndrome
- severe and profound learning disability
- solid organ, bone marrow and stem cell transplant recipients
- people with specific cancers
- immunosuppression due to disease or treatment
- asplenia and splenic dysfunction
- morbid obesity
- severe mental illness
If you are of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding you can find more specific advice on the COVID-19 vaccination programme here.
How to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Pharmacy2U are proud to be assisting the NHS in their mission to get the nation vaccinated against COVID-19. If you are over 60, clinically extremely vulnerable, or have been contacted by the NHS, you can book your vaccination appointment. You MUST make an appointment through the NHS national booking system to get your vaccination.
More answers to frequently asked questions on the COVID-19 vaccinations can be found here.
Not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?
Patients not yet eligible need to wait to be contacted before booking a vaccination – the NHS will let you know when it is your turn. In the meantime it’s important to follow government advice to ‘stay home’ and adhere to social distancing if you have to go out.
The new variant of the coronavirus has been found to have spread to more parts of the country. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the new variant is more likely to lead to a serious illness or an increased risk of death compared to the original variant that started the pandemic, but it may spread more easily.
In response to this, the Government has introduced community asymptomatic testing. This is a new tool to help identify and isolate those who have COVID-19 but do not have symptoms and may inadvertently be spreading the virus. This can help to isolate cases and provide a route out of the toughest restrictions. Check if your region is offering community testing locally here.
As always, please continue to stay safe and follow government guidance.