This site is intended for health professionals only

GPs ‘still told to throw away Covid vaccines’, BMA claims

booster doses

The BMA has said it is continuing to hear reports of CCGs ‘demanding that vaccines are thrown away’ rather than being given as second doses or to ‘other cohorts’.

Pulse revealed last month that GPs could give unused vaccines to the over 75s amid reports that some vials were being wasted due to NHS England red tape around second doses.

NHS England has since said that GPs can offer Covid jabs outside the first four priority cohorts if there is a ‘risk’ of vaccine wastage.

However, second doses for both staff and patients within 12 weeks of the first jab remain banned.

In its latest GP Committee update, the BMA said that vaccines ‘must not be deliberately wasted’ and reiterated that PCNs should set up reserve lists to make ‘every effort’ to use all stock.

The email update, sent to practices on Friday, said: ‘We continue to have reports of some CCGs demanding that vaccines are thrown away rather than giving second doses or vaccinating other cohorts. 

‘We would like to reiterate that NHSE/I has made it clear that the top priority is that all vaccines be used and therefore must not be deliberately wasted.’

It added: ‘All sites should have reserve lists that they can use to make every effort to invite patients or healthcare professionals to ensure that they can make full use of any unused vaccines rather than have any go to waste.’

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘As has been said repeatedly, there is absolutely no reason why a vaccine should be wasted, and there is no evidence this is happening.

‘Doctors and other staff at vaccination sites have been asked to have plans in place to ensure that all vaccines are used, including having reserve lists of patients in priority cohorts that can be called for a jab at short notice.’

Following ongoing confusion and controversy around vaccine wastage policies, NHS England clarified ‘three key rules’ for vaccine deployment, including no wastage, second doses given only after 12 weeks and JCVI priority groups one and two offered a jab first.

It has said that GPs are ‘strongly recommended’ to set up reserve lists of patients who can attend for vaccinations ‘at short notice’ and that GPs can offer Covid jabs outside priority cohorts if vaccine risks being wasted.

NHS England previously said there was ‘absolutely no reason’ why vaccines should be wasted and that practices should start vaccinating the next cohort if none from the first two were ‘left’ to receive their first dose.


Subhash Chandra Bhatt 2 February, 2021 12:02 pm

One does not know till late if there is going to be spare vaccine. It is closer to time when tired staff are ready to go home. Calling reserve list at short notice is not easy. One would still be left with some iunused vaccines and I see no reason why staff should be deprived of second dose . Which CCG advises to throw it away?

GP Warwickshire 2 February, 2021 12:11 pm

NHSE will have to relent at some point soon on the 2nd dose dictat. Some of the first doses will have been given in December which will now be 6+ weeks post first dose. Lucany to have to chuck precious vaccine out.

Daniel Henderson 2 February, 2021 12:12 pm

How about we vaccinate our frontline staff properly and give second doses if there is leftover e.g . due to non-attendance etc. This will reduce the risk of them getting covid and being off as that would compromise the vaccine rollout effort. Or maybe we could vaccinate teachers who have zero protection and no doubt will be asked to return to full classes, unvaccinated soon?

Judith Crosse 2 February, 2021 12:59 pm

Totally agree with the above comments

David OHagan 2 February, 2021 2:06 pm

CCGs have no direct control on vaccine supply, delivery or usage. This is the responsibility of NHSE/I , PCNs and hospital trusts. There are many CCGs who are supporting these organisations to reduce wastage using local coordination and mutual aid.

If there are wrong messages coming out of some organisations then these must be corrected.
It would be better for the BMA to state exactly which organisations are passing out this plainly wrong message, the given statement is supportive of those who want to remove any influence GPs have in local healthcare administration.

Annette Campbell 2 February, 2021 2:33 pm

I think it is completely unethical to waste any vaccine at all at this point given supply pressures- and I would challenge anyone who tried to make me discard vaccine, as discarded doses deprive a person of a dose!
I can see they don’t want to have accusations of healthier patients being vaccinated ahead of the very vulnerable but the logistics are so complex that surely every vaccine in an arm frees up a dose for someone else down the line.

terry sullivan 2 February, 2021 4:35 pm

NAME AND SHAME THE INDIVIDUALS–i am retired so will do for you if you wish

Ramila Patel 2 February, 2021 6:10 pm

There appears to be confusion between different areas and comments in the media regarding offering unused doses and discard. The recommended interval between first and second dose based on clinical trials and regulatory approvals is 21 days for Pfizer-BioNtech and 28 days for Astra-Zaneca. Reducing time between doses is not recommended and does not confirm the additional immune response needed from the second dose. Astra-Zeneca vaccine dose if given between 21-28 days according to available information is acceptable but if the second dose is given before 21 days then a third dose is recommended after appropriate time interval. Same scientific rational should be applied to Pfizer vaccine. Therefore, staff who have already had their first dose 21 days ago could be given the second dose of the same vaccine to avoid wastage. Alternatively, follow what many providers are doing in West Midlands – at the end of the day offer the vaccine to all eligible people or other staff who have not had their first dose.

Chris GP 3 February, 2021 12:14 pm

It is about trust. It is clear the fu*kers don’t trust us to only give the vaccine to non priority cohorts if it would otherwise be thrown away. They think there is a chance we would abuse
any slack – and give it to all our chums on the golf course / yacht club. It is just like they don’t trust us to do our jobs without the restrictions of qof, CQC, appraisal etc. This tells you all you need to know about general practice and it tells you all you need to know about why I and hundreds like me am retiring the day we turn 55.

Samir Shah 3 February, 2021 3:02 pm

We should be trusted to conduct ourselves in an ethical, fair and equitable way by allowing PCNs to get on with immunising the population they are tasked with.