Hospitals should vaccinate elderly and vulnerable inpatients – top adviser

Hospitals should be vaccinating elderly and vulnerable inpatients, a Government immunisation adviser has said, after some NHS trusts refused to administer the Covid-19 jab.

Professor Anthony Harnden, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said it was “absolutely essential” that hospital trusts vaccinated those most at risk of Covid-19 in their care.

The call comes after a Sky News investigation found evidence of hospitals telling the families of elderly non-Covid patients that they are only vaccinating outpatients, and not those staying overnight.

Coronavirus graphic
Coronavirus graphic

In one case, Maria Thompson was told by a staff member at St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust that her 80-year-old mother would not be vaccinated during her stay for an autoimmune illness.

“We are not yet vaccinating inpatients,” the message said.

The hospital cited challenges over moving the Pfizer vaccine around the hospital, and concerns about recording who had received the jab.

Meanwhile, a statement from Northampton General Hospital to Sky News said some patients would only be vaccinated after they have left hospital.

It said: “As the first and second dose of the vaccine need to be delivered by the same team, some patients are being vaccinated in a community setting post-discharge so they don’t have to make a return journey to an acute hospital. This is safer and more convenient for those patients.”

But Prof Harnden told Sky News hospitals should be vaccinating those at risk.

He said: “The JCVI are absolutely clear that those first top four priority groups that we’ve outlined are at considerable risk of dying from Covid.

“Therefore we believe that all four groups should be immunised as quickly as possible.

“Clearly, if people are going into hospital they are at increased risk of exposure, so it seems absolutely essential that they’re immunised if they’re in those groups before they go into hospital, and if they’re in hospital that the NHS and that hospital trust make every possible opportunity that they can to immunise them when they’re in.

“So I would fully support those people that are certainly elderly and vulnerable and who haven’t received their immunisation in a hospital to be immunised.”

There is no national NHS guidance stopping hospitals from vaccinating the elderly and vulnerable in their care.

An NHS spokesman said the decisions were taken locally.

He said: “Decisions on who to vaccinate and where are made locally between clinician and doctor and in line with JCVI guidance.

“Thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, nearly four in five over-80s have been vaccinated already and with over 1,300 vaccination centres now open, including local pharmacies and GP led sites, people will have the option of getting vaccinated at a location convenient to them and everyone should continue to accept an appointment once invited.”

Prof Harnden also told Sky News he was “optimistic” about the continued supply of vaccines into the UK, adding that the country could expect to see a sharp fall-off in deaths by mid-March.