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All GPs will be vaccinated by 15 February, health secretary pledges


GP vaccine by 15 February


The health secretary has promised that all GPs and their staff will be vaccinated by 15 February – and hopefully ‘sooner’.

It comes as NHS England has set out an ‘immediate requirement’ for hospital hubs to vaccinate healthcare staff, including GPs.

This week, the Government announced a target for the JCVI’s first four priority groups – with frontline health and social care workers in the second spot – to be immunised against Covid by 15 February.

Speaking at a parliamentary committee evidence session held yesterday, Matt Hancock said he will ‘absolutely ensure’ that all NHS staff are offered a vaccine ‘in the coming weeks’ and ‘certainly by 15 February’.

He added: ‘I hope we can get through all of [JCVI] category two – which includes all health and social care staff – sooner than 15 February, but that’s the target that we’re committed to hit.’

And an NHS England letter yesterday outlined an ‘immediate requirement’ for hospital hubs to vaccinate frontline health and social care workers, following risk assessments ‘as much as possible’.

The letter said: ‘It is now time for us to vaccinate health and care workers, in line with the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) prioritisation. 

‘This is critical to ensure we protect health and care workers, patients and the public at a time when Covid-19 pressures across health and care are intensifying.’

It added that all NHS trusts will be established as hubs by mid-January and will be the ‘default provider’ of Covid vaccinations for health and social care staff, including GPs and other primary care staff.

However, local systems ‘may wish to develop alternative local arrangements’, including with GP-run vaccination centres, the letter said.

NHS England added that while staff at ‘high risk’ of infection, developing ‘serious disease’ or transmitting infection to other staff or vulnerable people should be prioritised, hubs should ensure ‘maximum uptake of vaccination and timely, equitable access across staff groups’.

Staff vaccinations should be completed ‘as quickly as possible’ and trusts are expected to make ‘significant progress’ by the first week of February, it said.

The letter added that staff vaccinations should be provided seven days a week at times that are ‘accessible to all frontline health and social care workers’ and may follow a phased approach so organisations can ‘maintain service delivery’. 

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall welcomed the plans and said it is ‘imperative’ that GPs receive the vaccination ‘in a timely manner’.

He added: ‘General practice has been doing an excellent job, playing a leading role in vaccinating more than 1.5m patients – but there is long road ahead of us and the last thing we want to see is the workforce depleted as staff fall ill due to Covid-19 at a time when we need all hands-on deck.’

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock also told the parliamentary committee that GPs should invite social care workers in to be vaccinated with spare jabs that would otherwise go to waste.

He said: ‘The primary care networks [should] invite social care workers in at the end of the day or at the end of a box if they’re getting to a point where the time on the box is running out since it was defrosted.’

It follows an urgent call from the BMA for GPs and practice staff to be vaccinated by the end of January or ‘within two weeks’ if at high risk.

NHS England last month said that Covid vaccinations should be ‘immediately expanded’ to frontline healthcare workers, with vulnerable staff prioritised based on risk assessments.

READERS' COMMENTS [5]

John Glasspool 9 January, 2021 12:31 pm

I had been mulling over returning as a vaccinator, but if it means not getting my shot till the middle/end Feb, then waiting 2 weeks to get an antibody response, so that I don’t become a casualty myself, well, I might as well not bother. By then it will be all over bar the shouting.

David jenkins 9 January, 2021 2:53 pm

the manufacturer’s protocol is very clear – pfizer say the second dose needs to be given 3-4 weeks after the first. i had the first pfizer vaccine on 21/12/20. i have an appt for the second on 18/1/21, but this has been postponed. i am vulnerable (bronchiectasis/copd), and i cannot go back to work until two weeks after the complete course. i am sitting at home twiddling my thumbs because the welsh nhs will not complete my course according to the manufacturer’s protocol. a local nurse was on the news last night in exactly the same predicament – but she has since caught covid and is now off sick with it – putting more pressure on the system instead of helping to solve it.

you couldn’t make it up – but the upside from my perspective is that i have almost finished restoring my 1939 wolseley 10 since i am prevented from contributing to the nhs by those who are running the show.

Adrian Lewis 11 January, 2021 1:53 pm

I am a 63yr old full time out of hours GP and have been seeing patients with COVID-19 at home, in PCC and in care homes since the start of the pandemic. Fortunately, the PPE provided by our Health Board led service has been of a good standard. To date I have managed to remain COVID-19 free as indicated by serial lateral flow antibody tests which I purchased from a UK company called SureScreen Diagnostics. I received my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on 18/12/2020 and was given an appointment for the second dose on 15/01/2021, this Friday. For the first fourteen days the lateral flow antibody tests remained negative and it was not until day seventeen post vaccination that there was a weakly positive result for both IgM and IgG antibodies. Seroconversion was convincing at day 21 with a well-defined IgG response but no detectable IgM antibodies. I am fairly certain that my second vaccination will be cancelled although I have not received any confirmation that this is the case or have I had a rescheduled vaccination date yet.
I can understand the position of the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations in wanting to vaccinate as many individuals as possible with the first dose, given the dire situation the NHS finds itself in, with critical care working at 140% capacity in a number of locations and the prospect of this deteriorating further in the next few weeks.
Throughout this pandemic we have been told that as a novel coronavirus we don’t really know the full effects of infection, and how long immunity lasts after infection. Although we have all had a very steep learning curve in this respect, we are all still on that curve with new evidence accumulating on a daily basis in terms of both the consequences of infection, new emerging variants and treatments. In this respect in the majority of instances, we remain guided by the evidence.
I find it somewhat counter intuitive that our health care leaders have now recommended administering the available vaccines “off licence” in terms of the interval between first and second dose. This decision as far as I can see, has been arrived at with no supporting evidence that this will not be detrimental in terms of the immune response, and ultimately the degree of protection offered to those vaccinated individuals, and the wider community if a suboptimal response continues to allow transmission of the virus. I have listened to several “experts” state that on the basis of experience with other vaccines the immune response is unlikely to wane significantly in 12 weeks – which is the “New UK recommended” dosing interval. Indeed, some have suggested that the second dose may be more effective if delayed. At present this is opinion and conjecture with, as far as I am aware no evidence base to support it. I am not aware of any other regulatory authority World wide who are recommending the approach adopted by the UK, and of the more notable organisations to shed doubt on the UK approach are the World Health Organisation, the Food and Drug Administration in the US and The European Medicines Agency all of which have recommended following the licenced dosing interval which was used in the robust clinical trials leading to authorisation of the vaccines. Given the novel nature of COVID-19 and the evolving information and understanding we have of the virus, would it not be prudent to follow the vaccination intervals specified during licencing until robust evidence emerges to support the UK approach. New research emerging from South Africa has suggested that the E484K variant emerging in that country is more resistant to antibodies produced following infection with the previous COVID-19 virus, and antibodies generated following vaccination. If this variant becomes established in the UK or indeed another variant emerges following suboptimal protection from an untested vaccination schedule we may as a result of the shenanigans of the Government and the “experts” paradoxically find ourselves in a worse position.
Unfortunately, our woes don’t end there. In addition to the off-licence use highlighted above we may also face a situation where those vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine initially, may face a situation where at 12 weeks there may be no more of this vaccine available and then be offered an alternative vaccine – most likely the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. As with “off licence “dosing intervals a mix-and-match vaccination regime is not recommended, and the same vaccine should be administered as the second dose as was administered for the first dose.
At present it appears that the UK is engaging in a therapeutic lottery or at best a poorly controlled clinical trial.

Patrufini Duffy 11 January, 2021 2:59 pm

They short changed you on PPE, beuracracy, lockdowns, abuse and now vaccines. You couldn’t make this up. The country of rules, regulations, policy and protocols and standard operating procedures. Thrown out of the window by politicians whenever they want to play by their rules. Remember when Johnson, Raab, Hancock et.al all said “don’t wear a mask”…because there was “no evidence” and keep leaving the borders exposed, to essentially kill off ITU. The East laughed at the West’s privelege. Now “we” have to save the NHS – there’s something perverse about that. Now they say don’t have your consented for second vaccine (because they don’t have enough). That’s perverse outright.

David jenkins 11 January, 2021 4:33 pm

Adrian Lewis

agree 100%. we may well go on to have the worst possible option – have your pfizer jab on day 1, by day 42 (for example), immunity starts dropping off, and no more pfizer jab available – effectively meaning the initial jab was of little benefit. on day 50 (say), start a fresh course of immunisation with oxford vaccine………….weeks later, have booster jab of same. result ? first jab effectively wasted, immunity from second jab reduced (but by how much ?) due to inappropriate interval etc etc.

?? second booster needed in order to ensure adequate immunity ??

meanwhile nhs staff with inadequate immunity falling ill, surgeries, hospital, out of hours etc all struggling with staff sickness/absence, all because a bunch of untrained politicians decided they knew better than the WHO, US FDA, MHRA, European Medicines Agency etc etc etc.

this could go on for a very long time, cost a huge amount of extra money, not to mention the huge unnecessary increase in morbidity and mortality.