The UK’s chief medical officers (CMOs) have warned GPs to be ‘ready’ for ‘additional pressures’ from Covid-19 resulting from the ‘social mixing’ set to occur over Christmas.
They also explained why GPs and other health professionals will not be first in line for the vaccine, and said they will continue to be required to wear PPE once vaccinated.
In a letter to health professionals, the CMOs of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland welcomed the news that the Covid-19 vaccination campaign can now commence, but warned it would be ‘many weeks’ until this results in reduced pressure on NHS services.
The letter said: ‘Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with Covid over the next three months.’
The CMOs went on to urge health professionals to prepare for increased rates of Covid following the holiday period. This comes as the four UK Governments have agreed three-household ‘bubbles’ can get together for indoor celebrations over Christmas.
The letter said: ‘The social mixing which occurs around Christmas may well put additional pressure on hospitals and general practice in the New Year and we need to be ready for that.’
The CMOs said this comes as many health professionals are ‘working exceptionally hard to manage Covid on top of other medical problems and have been doing so for a long time’.
And they added: ‘We think it likely that by spring the effects of vaccination will begin to be felt in reducing Covid admissions, attendances and deaths significantly but there are many weeks before we get to that stage.’
Meanwhile, as NHS England confirmed this week that the first in line to get the Covid vaccine will be over-80s and care home staff rather than health professionals, the CMOs’ letter said that the ‘JCVI has recommended that health and social care workers are a high priority once the most vulnerable who are at highest risk of dying have been vaccinated’.
According to the CMOs, this is to prevent nosocomial spread of Covid via healthcare professionals, but they added that this comes as there is no ‘firm data’ as yet on ‘the effects of these vaccines on transmission’.
Therefore, they said: ‘It is going to be essential that people continue to maintain current PPE and other measures to reduce transmission even after vaccination as we accumulate that data.’
Warning that this year’s winter will be ‘especially hard’ due to Covid-19, the CMOs commended health professionals for responding ‘magnificently’ to the pandemic during 2020.
Thanking health professionals for their efforts, the letter added: ‘We are full of admiration for what all of you have done and continue to do.’
The latest JCVI list of prioritisation for the Covid vaccinations, which comes as the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine received MHRA approval this week, was confirmed this week as follows:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- All those 80 years of age and over. Frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- All those 65 years of age and over
- All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over