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GPs are ready – is the Government?

GPs are ready – is the Government?

In my editorial in the January issue, published online on Monday, I struck a positive note – despite everything, the fact we are where we are on vaccines is something to celebrate. If the target of 13.9 million of the most vulnerable patients to be vaccinated is met, I genuinely believe it is possible to approach something close to normal by Easter.

For this programme to be a success, we need the vaccines available, the vaccinators in place and all the logistics of delivering the vaccine to the vaccinators in place. But that, unfortunately, depends on this government confounding all previous evidence by acting competently around vaccines.

Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca say there is no problem with the production of the vaccines. Pfizer say they are not short of vaccines, and AstraZeneca say they will be in a position to produce 2 million a week very shortly – which will be enough for the target.

From all the GPs I’ve spoken to, it seems as though having the vaccinators in place is not an issue. GPs have been heroic – reconfiguring services overnight to carry out the biggest public health programme of all time. I’ve seen this personally – taking my elderly parents to be vaccinated, I was in awe of the operation of their local PCN vaccination centre.

At the same time, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has said pharmacists across the country are ready to help in the vaccination effort – help that would be appreciated by all.

So why is there a sense that this won’t work? Well, it relies on the Government to ensure that the vaccinators receive the vaccine. And previous major programmes – such as track and trace, and PPE – doesn’t augur confidence. We can, of course, forgive some problems. I would suggest that the odd delay is frustrating, but should be expected for what is the biggest public health programme ever carried out in the country, and is being done at breakneck speed.

Already, I fear that the overnight change in the two doses policy is eroding confidence. This was an easy win – let GPs honour the appointments already made, but then book patients in for a single dose only. I still can’t understand why this change wasn’t made. It seems that Covid vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi agrees, which begs the question why it wasn’t implemented originally.

The interview with him on the BBC Today programme was a positive one in general. It is good to know that daily vaccinations data will be published from Monday, and we have more details of the numbers of sites coming onstream.

I do fear that this data will only having the effect of showing up the Government. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Vinci Ho 6 January, 2021 6:41 pm

(1) OK The argument here is ,longer delay actually is beneficial for Astra-Zeneca Covid vaccine. The corresponding information is available. But what did Pfizer say about their mRNA vaccine , the first of this kind manufactured? They already covered their backside by announcing that they do not support this presumption of the longer the gap ( > 21 days ) , the better . Should any medico-legal challenge arises in the future (in patients catching Covid plus or minus serious/fatal outcomes at the time between 21 days and 12 weeks after first dose of the Pfizer vaccine ), Pfizer will be happy to say ,’ I told you so’!
(2) The politically correct argument of leaving a longer gap so that more people will be vaccinated with first doses , again , appears to be sustainable in the case of Astra-Zeneca vaccine but rather absurd for the Pfizer vaccine . The caveat is potentially having more partially protected patients waiting longer for the Pfizer second ones instead of the original number of so many 95% protected after 21 days in line with the trial results. Of course , everyone is guessing here but the fundamental presumption is the two vaccines behave the same for immunogenicity. And please do not give me ‘ the experts said so ‘ !
(3) The bottom line is , as I could witness so far , the ridiculously unpredictable dates of delivery for all the vaccines to GP sites under the jurisdiction of NHS England/Improvement . The question is why ? Is that really the best NHSE/I can do ?
I would argue if the deliveries are as prompt ,consistent and frequent enough , we would have no problem completing good number of Pfizer ones in recommended two-dose regime , as well as giving many first dose Astra-Zeneca ones away . Bear in mind the both companies said supply was not a problem , yes or no ???

The fact that you two are ‘twins’ does not necessarily mean you are more or less the same person. Common sense ? But who am I to say that ? Only a layman GP . 😎😈

David OHagan 8 January, 2021 10:43 am

Is Boris firing blanks? From the government which sent soldiers to war without boots they are now sending the army and the NHS in to vaccinate with empty syringes.

The rhetorical effort is world beatingly superlative if not infinitely better and beyond.

Perhaps sending an army of builders and equipment manufacturers to develop vaccine bottling capacity in Wrexham or near to the vaccine manufacturing sites, or getting volunteers on the batch quality control, might be a tad more useful!

.. but they know that..don’t they?

Nicola Williams 13 January, 2021 8:55 pm

Why can’t they let General Practice order their own vaccines directly from Astra Zeneca , in the same way we order flu vaccines every year, and cut out the useless middle man . We would then know when we would have a delivery and would hav e staff and patients ready immediately . We manage the flu vaccines every year don’t we ?

David Bush 14 January, 2021 8:30 am

Where are the RCGP in all this? All we receive from them is wishywashy briefs essentially saying ‘this is what we’re doing cos the government says so’. Look at the 2nd vaccination cancellation fiasco. Why aren’t they sitting around the table with government when determining how primary care vaccinations will work? Or if they are why are they not representing their members with a bit of gusto? If they wish to lose their reputation as a bunch of gong-chasers they need to step up and represent us. Every year I ask myself why I continue to pay the membership fee – misplaced loyalty?