In a world desperate for good news, Pulse’s world exclusive yesterday that the NHS is reaching an agreement with GPs to potentially administer Covid vaccines before Christmas was, indeed, good news. I’ve warned before about the caveats – that the scientists are playing down the effect of the vaccine on a population level, and we don’t know the efficacy at the individual level. But the fact that NHS England chief executive has spent the morning confirming Pulse’s report can only be viewed positive.
But I can’t help but question whether it is a good thing for GPs. Even if full details are released this week, there won’t be much time to prepare for what could be the biggest vaccination programme the UK has ever seen. I’ve heard too much about a pre-Christmas starting date to believe that the new year is the actual plan, as Sir Simon Stevens claims.
If this was a standard vaccine, that would be tough in itself. But it seems as though there is a high chance that one vaccine will need to be administered in two doses, while another will need to be kept at below 70 degrees. And this will be done at the same time as the biggest ever flu programme, and I understand there will be requirements to separate the flu and Covid vaccinations. Don’t forget, this is at a time of social distancing and staff often having to isolate.
I understand that the payment will be more than the flu vaccine payments, and of course it won’t just be GPs administering the vaccines.
But regardless, delivering this programme with all these challenges throughout what may be one of the worst winters for the NHS ever, seems like an impossible job. Let’s hope GPs get all the support they need.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.