Practices are to be asked to set up drive through vaccination stations to ensure that flu prevention programmes can be delivered safely, it was reported today.
The NHS may also set up specialist centres, modelled on the COVID-19 testing centres, to ensure mass vaccination. Under the latest plans flu vaccination is to be offered to all over-50s.
According to one new analysis, the social distancing and extra hygiene linked to the pandemic may help keep rates of flu and other viral infection to record low rates. The Royal College of GPs says its surveillance suggests that non-COVID-19 viral infections are already well below normal levels.
The Times says practices may be given guidance on how to use their car parks to deliver vaccination to people sitting in their cars. They could also use car parks as waiting rooms, it has been suggested.
They should also consider home vaccination for those who are shielding, according to Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer.
Professor Whitty has written to practices stating that they should consider “social-distancing innovations, such as drive-in vaccinations and ‘car as waiting room’ models.” The paper reports that the UK has enough stocks of vaccine for 75% of the 22 million people who are now eligible.
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “GPs need clear guidance who, outside of those patients most at risk, should be prioritised for a flu jab — and there needs to be clear public messaging that this is the case to manage patients’ expectations.”
Professor Marshall told the Guardian that social distancing had probably reduced rates of influenza-like illness – but said that practice reports of these illnesses could also be affected by patients not seeking help. He said: “We would expect to see a drop in influenza-like illness during the warmer months but the latest figures from our research and surveillance centre, which collects data from more than 500 GP practices in England, shows that it’s lower than the five-year average for this time of year.
“The social distancing measures we have seen over the last few months and an increased public emphasis on maintaining good hygiene have probably played their part, but we also know that some patients have been reluctant to use the NHS during COVID-19 because they haven’t wanted to overburden services at a time of crisis or are afraid of catching the virus.”