Pulse reported last week that NHS England are planning to ‘mobilise’ for a potential Covid vaccination programme in December. But this is not a huge cause for celebration.
First of all, we still don’t have a vaccine that we know is effective. As chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance pointed out this week, there won’t be mass vaccinations until spring and even then, we don’t know how effective it will be.
Second, there will be issues around GPs’ involvement in this either way, and I understand negotiations are ongoing around whether they will be delivering the programme. This highlights a conundrum in the NHS: general practice is perhaps the most efficient part of the health service, but there isn’t the capacity to make the most of this efficiency.
If the programme is kept away from general practice – and a document leaked to the Economist and the Sun seems to refer to mass vaccinations taking place at ‘Nightingale Vaccination Centres’ – I’d be worried that we would have similar problems to Serco’s test and trace programme.
But then again, fitting in the biggest vaccination programme in history in the UK (it is possible that there will be two doses if Oxford’s phase two results are anything to go by, delivered to potentially 30 million people) following what could be the worst winter ever doesn’t bear thinking about.
And thirdly, I am fearful around when healthcare professionals will be receiving any vaccination. The current thinking seems to be that care home residents and staff will be first in the queue. There is no doubt they need it. But there has to be a guarantee that GPs and other staff facing patients with the virus get this towards the start of the programme.
A vaccine in the next few months would be a positive step – but it will only be the first step on a long arduous journey.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.