Exclusive The BMA expects GPs to ‘play a significant part’ in any upcoming Covid-19 vaccination campaign, despite Government preparations for a wider workforce to give vaccines at centralised sites.
Last Friday, new laws came into effect enabling midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists and pharmacists to be trained to give both Covid and flu vaccines.
At the same time, a leaked document obtained by the Economist and the Sun revealed Government plans for mass Covid-19 vaccinations at large-scale ‘Nightingale Vaccination Centres’ – including in Leeds, Hull and London.
However, BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that it is the BMA’s expectations GPs will have a significant role in administering Covid vaccines.
The comments come as Pulse exclusively revealed last week that talks are taking place at the highest levels around mobilising for a potential Covid vaccine from December, with some sources putting the chances of the programme being started this year as ’50/50′,
Dr Vautrey said this ‘huge’ vaccination campaign will require significant ‘support’ for practices.
Dr Vautrey told Pulse: ‘While we don’t have a specific date when the vaccines will be ready, the BMA fully expects general practice to play a significant part in administering them, and practices will require significant support for what is set to be a huge immunisation campaign.’
Grassroots GPs told Pulse they fear the impact a large-scale Covid vaccination campaign run via practices would have on their workload.
Dr Ankit Kant, a GP in Norfolk, said he believes practices would carry it out ‘fantastically well’, but he added: ‘This additional work needs to be a fully resourced activity with an adjustment into how we can deliver primary care whilst under unprecedented demand.
‘This isn’t simply about funding, but about recognising and responding to what is going on with primary care currently; unprecedented demand, dealing with more secondary care dumping, whilst trying to cope with being bashed in the media continually.’
Dr Dave Triska, a GP in Surrey, said the proposals of Government-run mass vaccination centres would ‘absolutely’ help take pressure off practices.
He added: ‘It would preserve the moral component of primary care – we need to keep doing the jobs only we can do. If burnt out, we can’t.’
Commenting on the prospect of GPs taking the lead on the campaign, he said: ‘I’m terribly worried about the work impact of it – flu alone is a massive undertaking.’
Discussions are taking place between NHS England, the BMA and other groups over who will be administering vaccines and who will be the first cohorts to receive the vaccine.
This week, chief scientific officer for England Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs at the joint Commons and Lords national security strategy committee that it was unlikely a vaccine would be widely available before the spring – but that ‘we may get some doses before that’.
Dr Vautrey told Pulse: ‘A comprehensive vaccination programme is fundamental to getting on top of this deadly virus, and it’s crucial that a safe and effective vaccine is made available as soon as possible, and for it to be rolled out in a way that benefits those most in need first.’
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation last month said people living in care homes and the staff looking after them should be at the very top of the list for a potential Covid-19 vaccine.
GPs and other healthcare workers would be next in the list of priorities, according to its updated analysis of who is most at risk.
In addition to enabling a wider workforce to give vaccines, last week’s new laws also give the MHRA power to approve an unlicensed vaccine for UK rollout.
They further offer some protection against civil liability to pharmaceutical companies bringing an unlicensed vaccine to market.
Additional reporting by Eleanor Philpotts