Responding to news that more than half a million people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in England1, Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC chair at the BMA, said: “These figures are absolute testament to the immense work going on in healthcare settings across the country, and the ongoing determination of our remarkable NHS staff to protect their communities as we get one step closer to defeating this dreadful virus.
“As more GP practices and hospitals start to deliver the vaccine in the coming weeks, we expect these numbers to rise substantially, but today’s milestone is nothing short of amazing when we consider the infancy of this rollout programme. It’s also good news to hear that GP practice teams are already managing to take the vaccine into care homes to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.
“Some GPs have told the BMA in recent weeks that they are experiencing delays in the delivery of the vaccine though, and while they are doing everything they can to work around this, these logistical issues must be resolved as a matter of urgency.
“When practices have worked so hard to get prepared, it’s frustrating to hear reports of some vaccine deliveries being delayed, but we expect all sites to be active early in January. This will be particularly concerning for some patients who will have had appointments rescheduled, but we hope that they will understand that their practices are doing everything possible to give them the vaccine as soon as possible.
“Everything must also be done to ensure that staff are properly prioritised for the vaccine and those at highest risk are protected as a matter of urgency, as well as steps taken to address the burgeoning backlog of non-Covid care in GP practices as this rollout continues.
“This includes making sure that surgeries have the support and resources they need, including guarantees of funding for issuing the vaccines, as well as significantly less red tape in the months ahead to ensure we can deliver this programme alongside other care as effectively as possible.”
Dr Rob Harwood, consultants committee chair at the BMA, said: “It’s extremely encouraging to see so many patients and staff now being immunised against this horrible disease, but some secondary care colleagues, despite being identified as high-risk, are reporting they have still not been offered the vaccine or have any indication about when they might receive it while others – sometimes with lower individual risk – are reporting that they’ve already been vaccinated.
“At a time when the NHS needs all the staff it can get, it’s vital that secondary care staff are protected to ensure they can continue to look after patients and also administer the vaccine to others.
“However, this, as the BMA has long argued, must not be done in a haphazard way, but through careful consideration regarding those at risk, whether as a consequence of their work environment or their own underlying health conditions.
“We also know that Covid-19 has a disproportionate impact on BAME groups, and so our colleagues from these communities must be protected as soon as possible. The lack of clarity and consistency regarding vaccine allocation risks losing the confidence of consultants that vaccination is currently decided only on individual need.
“Today’s news is certainly uplifting for many, but these basic distribution issues must be addressed if we’re to rollout this vaccine effectively and keep our colleagues and patients safe.”