An East London MP has urged the Government to supply the AstraZeneca vaccine directly to GP practices to reach hesitant patients via local clinics.
As it stands, GPs in East London are having to collect AstraZeneca vaccine from the local mass vaccination hub in the morning before holding small clinics for vaccine-hesitant groups, according to Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali.
This involves a ‘lot of work’ and requires the vaccine to be used within six hours, she noted.
The Labour MP has written to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi to request that he ‘urgently’ ensures GP practices in areas with low take up are provided with direct supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be stored at regular fridge temperature.
A recent RCGP analysis of NHS England data found that white people are three times as likely to have had a Covid vaccine than those of mixed race, and twice as likely compared to black people.
And Ms Ali said ‘local data from Tower Hamlets show that 76% of South Asian residents and 62% of Black residents, over the age of 70, have had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine’ compared with ‘87% of white residents in the same age groups’.
Ms Ali argued that GPs, as ‘the most trusted professionals in the country’, are well-equipped to play ‘a central role in tackling vaccine hesitancy’ – but only if they ‘receive the supply of vaccines’.
Her letter, sent on Tuesday, said: ‘Direct delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine to each GP surgery, as is done with the flu vaccine, would streamline the process so GPs can focus on vaccinating their patients.
‘A local response from GPs that you know and trust will make a massive difference to vaccine take-up. All GPs that have been involved in vaccinating the housebound have achieved vaccination rates of 95%. This is a clear indication of what is possible if vaccines are directly supplied to every practice in areas with lower take-up.’
She added that ‘increasing the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine to GP surgeries can play a major role in increasing take-up and tackling these disparities which are costing lives’.
The MP called on Mr Zahawi to take ‘urgent action’ to get the AstraZeneca version to ‘many more GP surgeries’, rather than ‘just a few in each area’.
It comes as a single-handed GP in East London has been personally calling her patients who refuse their vaccine. Dr Farzana Hussain has been improving local uptake by speaking to over 50 people thus far.
It also comes as NHS England has urged PCNs to partner with places of worship to set up roving vaccination sites targeting ethnic minorities.