The threat of COVID-19 has reduced since the height of the pandemic in 2020, largely thanks to the UK’s vaccination programme. This has helped to minimise the spread of the disease and lessened the severity of its symptoms. But as the colder seasons begin, the chance of infection increases and your residents will need a booster jab to help keep them safe. Here’s what you need to know to be prepared for the Autumn vaccine at your care home.
What is the Autumn covid booster?
The rollout of the UK’s covid vaccination programme has enabled restrictions to be eased in wider society, as well as in care homes, with research published in the British Medical Journal showing that countries with higher vaccine coverage had a more than 80% reduction in death rates compared with largely unvaccinated countries. To continue safeguarding vulnerable residents’ wellbeing, the decision to give care home residents a further booster jab this Autumn was made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
The booster jab will be given to those who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill from covid to protect them during the colder months. Colds, viruses and flus spread a lot quicker during Autumn and Winter, making it especially important to keep care home residents protected in these seasons. The booster jab will help add another layer of safety for vulnerable residents as the temperature drops.
Who is eligible for the Autumn covid booster?
The Autumn booster vaccine programme is still in its early days, with more details published in September. The JCVI’s publication indicates that both care home residents and staff will be eligible, meaning it will be important to encourage care home staff to also ensure they are protected. It is important to note that this will not be a mandatory action for compliance, but it is highly recommended to help reduce the potential for new infection spreading in care homes.
The JCVI has indicated that if there is a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, priority will be given to the clinically vulnerable first, with care workers in second preference.
Which vaccine will care home residents be given?
The UK made headlines this year for being the first country to approve a bivalent COVID-19 booster. It is an updated version of the Moderna vaccine, which targets both the original covid strain, as well as the Omicron strain — which is less severe in symptoms but more contagious. The new Moderna vaccine was given the go-ahead by the government’s independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, after undergoing clinical trials and scientific scrutiny.
It is not yet confirmed whether the bivalent Moderna vaccine will be used in the Autumn booster campaign, but a top-up of the original booster jabs will also be effective in protecting care home residents, care workers and visitors.
How to prepare your care home for the booster
There are four main ways to prepare your care home for the COVID-19 Autumn booster:
- Gather consent. The JCVI has requested for care homes to begin asking for consent from residents and staff now to streamline the booster programme when it starts. In some cases, you may have a resident who does not have the mental capacity to give their own consent and will need a best interests decision from a responsible party.
- Create a space. It’s a good idea to allocate a specific area for the vaccine to be administered in your care home and practice the process with staff so that they can help residents on the day. Full guidance on preparing staff for the booster can be found, here.
- Review clinical records. Before any group medications, it’s important to ensure you have residents’ NHS numbers and have reviewed their records, checking for allergies or exemptions. This has likely been carried out with previous vaccinations, but it should be repeated to avoid any potential issues.
- Keep GP Practice staff and any clinical workers at your care home informed of what steps are being taken. Residents’ families should also be notified, so they’re aware of what is being administered and when.
If you need help preparing for the vaccine booster, or with establishing better Infection Prevention and Control measures in your care home, please get in touch.