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GPs have key role in explaining Covid vaccine benefits, say CMOs


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GPs and practice nurses will play a key role when it comes to helping patients decide to accept the Covid vaccine, England’s chief medical officers have signalled.

Speaking at a joint parliamentary committee hearing on lessons learned from the pandemic, England CMO Professor Chris Whitty said ‘lots’ of people who are ‘waiting to see’ whether they will accept an offer of the new Covid vaccine are being ‘entirely reasonable’.

He said: ‘These are new vaccines and with the right information, they will think “yes actually, this feels right to me”.

‘The efficacy data are really clear and now we need to be really clear about any issues around side effects and so on so that people feel they can make a balanced and reasonable decision.’

Deputy CMO Dr Jenny Harries added that GPs will be key to local messaging.

She told MPs: ‘Once we’ve got the national messaging clear and correct, what’s really important is who is giving that message locally as well. 

‘Obviously we work with directors of public health to ensure that there is a consistent message but for the person in their home [or] in the street, [with] primary care – their GP, but particularly actually the practice nurse – still working with them to ensure they understand as well.’

Healthcare staff themselves taking up the vaccine is also a ‘very clear message to the public’, Dr Harries said.

Professor Whitty added that GPs are also the ‘frontline’ for making sure the messaging reaches different ethnic groups and communities in their area.

He said: ‘The local directors of public health, local health leaders, GPs, nurses are in the best position because they will often know what it is that people in their area – groups that come to them from different communities – what it is that really worries them.’

The Government must be ‘open’ with people about side effects, the CMOs added.

It comes as a new study has revealed that only 65% of UK patients would be willing to get a Covid vaccine next year.

And GPs should check with patients if they have previously suffered significant allergic reactions before administering the Pfizer Covid vaccine, following new MHRA guidance.

Meanwhile, Professor Whitty also told the Science and Technology and Health and Social Care Committees that he expects ‘by the middle of the year probably to have a portfolio of three or four vaccines we can actually use’.

However, he added that he is ‘not confident’ that herd immunity is definitely possible as it remains unclear whether the vaccine prevents transmission or only the individual vaccinated.

And although it remains a ‘science-informed political decision’, Professor Whitty told MPs the vaccine rollout will not give enough protection to relax restrictions for the next three months.

He said: ‘I want to be very clear, for the next three months we will not have sufficient protection – we are going through the most difficult time for respiratory infections and for the NHS – so the idea we can suddenly stop now because the vaccine is here would be really premature.

‘It would be like somebody giving up a marathon race at mile 16, it would be absolutely the wrong thing to do.’

He added that if it transpires that the vaccine does not prevent transmission, social distancing measures would be unlikely to be relaxed until all JCVI priority groups had been vaccinated.

The MHRA approved the Covid vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech last week (2 December) after final-stage trials had shown it was effective and ‘well tolerated across all populations’ with ‘no serious safety concerns observed’.

Around 50 hospital hubs have begun vaccinating the first risk groups this week, with the first GP sites to follow next week.

READERS' COMMENTS [7]

John Ashcroft 11 December, 2020 10:52 am

It is going to be much easier to reassure patients when we as GPs have actually had the vaccine.
Patents of children are always reassured when they here that I and all the doctors in the practice have vaccinated our children, and by the schedule.
It would also let us get back to doing our job properly and with less risk to our patients.

John Ashcroft 11 December, 2020 10:53 am

Here/hear

David Banner 11 December, 2020 11:10 am

It’s already feared that uptake for this vaccine will be far less than needed. Time for those in charge to nominate the GP scapegoats.

David jenkins 11 December, 2020 2:21 pm

if we’re so essential in this key role why don’t they pay us properly for this apparently very important work ?

the message they seem to be putting out – or at least encouraging/perpetuating – is that gp’s are a bunch of overpaid lazy golfplayers who are not really needed. i gather the payment to the test and trace personnel, who seem to acheive an average of very little, is marginally more than what they propose to pay gp’s for giving the vaccine (assuming, of course, that the info i’ve had is correct).

Rogue 1 11 December, 2020 3:32 pm

I haven’t had any solid info from the government/NHS to help inform me and advise patients.
When asked Im afraid its going to simply be refer to the BBC and make your own mind up!

Patrufini Duffy 11 December, 2020 3:45 pm

Haven’t seen a Pfizer drug rep recently. No free pens or post-it notes.

David Church 11 December, 2020 8:11 pm

If (headline), then we better get some truthful and open and CONCISE honest information from them about the real choices, not propaganda.
Although if Llanelli is anything to go by, home-working HB managers have shown a great examlpe by being first in line clamouring to get vaccinated.
People will follow that sort of example from a HB manager more strongly than the example of a GP who has to have the Imms for professional reasons rather than by choice to demonstrate how wonderful it is. or isn’t