covid vaccine waiting room

Vaccine observation period suspended to speed up booster programme

Advice from the four UK Chief Medical Officers has stated that the 15-minute observation period that follows the vaccination should be temporarily suspended to speed up the rollout of the booster programme.

Boris Johnson’s ambitious target of all over-18’s receiving their booster jabs by the end of December despite the festive period has meant there has been increased pressure placed on the NHS and GPs nationally.

There has proven to be a low risk of serious allergic reaction to the mRNA vaccines, with around 1 in 100,000 reporting a reaction.

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said: “In light of the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant and the proven effectiveness of booster doses against Omicron, the 15-minute observation period following mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) can be waived during the emergency response to the Omicron variant. This advice includes first and second vaccine doses as well as boosters.

“The 15-minute observation period after vaccination will remain in place for the small number of people who may have previously suffered anaphylaxis or other allergic reactions to a food, insect sting and most medicines or vaccines.

“Anaphylaxis and other severe allergic reactions are very rare side effects with the COVID-19 vaccines. During this time when the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly, the benefits of vaccinating as many people as possible, which will be gained from waiving the 15-minute wait, far outweigh the very small risks of anaphylaxis.

“We are continuing to closely monitor both UK and international data and would ask anyone who suspects they have experienced a side effect linked with their COVID-19 vaccine to report it to the Coronavirus Yellow Card website. Anyone who experiences symptoms of an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat or faintness should seek urgent medical attention.”

Observation periods are not required after any other jab and experts have claimed that keeping the waiting time in place would cause more harm than good as it will hinder the volume of booster jabs centres will be able to give out.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UKHSA, said: “With Omicron growing at such a fast rate, and with early data suggesting two doses of the vaccine is not enough to protect against symptomatic infection, it is vital we do everything we can to get more jabs in more arms as quickly as possible.

“The removal of the 15-minute wait, as agreed by the CHM, will help streamline the process at vaccine centres, and we have updated our guidance to facilitate this"

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NHE May/June 2024

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