‘Really worrying’ that some care homes have not yet been contacted about booster jabs

It is “really worrying” that some care homes are reporting that they have not yet been contacted about getting a booster coronavirus vaccine for residents and staff, a social care leader has said.

Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the situation is “either (to do with) the availability, or the actual rollout isn’t as smooth as the previous one”.

She told the programme that “the entire methodology of getting this booster in is not quite mirroring what we did last time to get the vaccine in” and care homes are “waiting to be contacted; if they are contacting GPs, the GPs are saying ‘Well, you need to contact the NHS, it might not be them that are dealing with it’.”

Ms Ahmed (pictured) added: “We have got some homes who are telling us they have not been contacted at all, which is really worrying because they know that they are in the cohort to be having it. They are worried.

“We are hearing every day that providers are saying to us that ‘We have not been contacted yet’ or ‘We were contacted to be ready and it is two weeks since then’.

“There is a concern because obviously the six-month gap is getting bigger and bigger so the efficacy of the vaccine is reducing.

“We have infection rates that are rising so, for both staff and residents, there is this fear.

“We are still having visitors coming in who don’t have to be vaccinated to come into our service.

“It is the pressure of the challenge now when we are also facing this chronic shortage of staff which is not being addressed at all.”

If eligible, people who can receive a booster dose include all adults aged 50 and over; frontline health and social care workers; and those living in residential care homes for older adults.

A total of 2.68 million people aged 80 and over in England have received two doses of vaccine, of which 1.34 million are now estimated to have had their booster dose – the equivalent of 50%.

NHS England has not yet published data on what proportion of care home residents and staff have received a booster vaccine.

Jane Brightman, co-founder of the Outstanding Manager Network, said care managers are reporting a mixed picture of access to boosters.

There is “a lot of praise” for health colleagues in areas where the rollout is taking place efficiently, such as in Kent, Portsmouth and Hampshire.

But in other areas care managers are reporting no contact for the booster or the flu jab yet, she said.

In Greater Manchester, for example, one manager said some services have reported being offered the booster but “many” are saying they have not been contacted for this or a flu jab for residents or staff.

She told the PA news agency: “Where it has been efficient, it’s a very positive feeling from the care managers – many see it as another step towards them joining the rest of society and being able to open up more.

“Where they have heard nothing there is frustration, at this stage I think they are still anticipating it will happen any day soon, but nerves about the winter are incredibly high.”

Ms Brightman said there is also some confusion over whether the booster jabs are mandatory for staff, and called for clearer messaging from the Government and Care Quality Commission.

An NHS spokeswoman said: “GP teams and care home managers should be working closely to vaccinate residents who are eligible for a booster, at least six months on from their second dose, and in just two days this week 500 visits to care homes have been reported.”

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