Observation period after jabs to be scrapped to speed up rollout

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People will no longer be required to wait at vaccine clinics for a 15-minute period of observation after getting a Pfizer or Moderna jab, officials have announced.

The UK’s four chief medical officers have recommended that the waiting period after Covid-19 vaccines should be temporarily suspended to speed up vaccination efforts.

After having a vaccine people are usually asked to wait for a period of observation to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction.

In a statement the UKs four CMOs and four deputy CMOs said: “The 15-minute wait should therefore be suspended for first, second and homologous or heterologous boost vaccinations with mRNA vaccine given the current situation, with this operationalised in line with the needs in each of the four nations.

“The long-term decisions on the 15-minute wait, when the current need for extreme speed of vaccination and boosting is over, should rest with the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM), the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).”

Hundreds of people queue at a vaccination centre on Solihull High Street, West Midlands (Jacob King/PA)
Hundreds of people queue at a vaccination centre on Solihull High Street, West Midlands (Jacob King/PA)

The CMO statement adds: “The CMOs recognise that this will lead to a marginal increase in risk for a very small number of people, but substantially fewer than would be harmed by a slower vaccine rollout in the current public health emergency leading to some citizens not getting boosted or vaccinated prior to exposure to Omicron.”

Those who have a history of allergies, particularly to other vaccines, or have had an immediate reaction after a previous doses, may still be advised to stay for the 15 minutes

Each of the UK nations will determine how they will use the advice.

The wait time was introduced after two NHS staff suffered allergic reactions on the first day of the vaccine rollout last year.

But some doctors have said the waiting time can “reduce the efficiency” of vaccination centres.

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) 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.”

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 will help streamline the process at vaccine centres, and we have updated our guidance to facilitate this.”

Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy for the NHS vaccination programme, added: “The updated CMO advice to temporarily suspend the 15-minute wait, where safe and appropriate, will be particularly helpful for smaller vaccination sites, helping get more people protected as quickly as possible.”

The announcement comes as people have queued for hours outside vaccine clinics to get their booster jabs.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that Boris Johnson wanted to thank those who had “queued for hours to get their jabs yesterday.”

The spokesman said: “We want to go further and faster and we will continue to do that as we expand.

“You’ll have seen that the 15-minute wait has been temporarily paused by the UK chief medical officers, that will allow for significantly more people to go through those vaccination sites.

“It’s something that will be very beneficial on the ground and I’ll stress that that’s been done on clinical advice and safety continues to be our top priority.”

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