Covid: Seven-day-a-week clinics for vaccine proposed

Health / Tue 10th Nov 2020 at 07:07am

DOCTORS’ leaders say they “stand ready” to start providing a Covid-19 vaccine – with proposals being drawn up for clinics to run for seven days a week.

The British Medical Association said mass vaccination centres could be used “in a similar way to testing centres”.

It comes after early results from a new vaccine showed it could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid.

But Boris Johnson warned people not to “rely on this news as a solution” – and it is still “very, very early days”.

On Monday, the news was announced that the world’s first effective coronavirus vaccine had shown positive results in its preliminary tests on 43,500 people.

The vaccine is being developed by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNtech and is one of 11 vaccines that are currently in the final stages of testing.

The companies now plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of November – and a limited number of people may get the vaccine this year.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate up to 20 million people as each person will need two doses for it to work effectively.

But in a press conference on Monday evening, Mr Johnson cautioned that the vaccine had “cleared one significant hurdle but there are several more to go”.

“The biggest mistake we could make now would be to slacken our resolve at a critical moment,” he said.

The vaccine will not be released for use until it passes safety tests and gets the final go-ahead from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

“If and when” the vaccine is approved for use, Mr Johnson said, the UK “will be ready to use it”.

Mass immunisation 

The BMA – which represents UK doctors – said it expected “vaccine availability to be limited to begin with, meaning only small numbers of vaccine may be given in December and most vaccinations taking place in early 2021”.

GPs have been told to prepare to give patients two vaccine doses – to be delivered between 21 and 28 days apart – during clinics that could run between 08:00 and 20:00 GMT seven days a week, the BMA said.

It said that, due to the logistics and delivery requirements, it was likely that groups of GP practices would need to work together with one “designated vaccination site”.

“Working together, practices will need to be prepared to offer vaccinations seven days a week so that the vaccine is delivered within its short shelf-life and so patients receive it as soon as possible,” it added.

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the BMA’s GP committee in England, said GPs and practice nurses had a “proven track record of mass immunisation campaigns” and were the right people to be leading the effort once a coronavirus vaccine became available.

“With a number of approval processes still to go, we are a long way from guaranteeing that vaccinations in local surgeries will begin in December – but practices, working together in their areas, will stand ready.”

Older care home residents and care home staff are at the top of a preliminary priority list published by the government, followed by health workers.

Deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam said he was “hopeful… but not yet certain” that some doses could be rolled out by Christmas.

But he warned it was not yet known whether any vaccine would prevent a person passing on coronavirus to someone else.

Meanwhile, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the findings demonstrated “the power of science against Covid”, adding: “We must see the final safety and efficacy data, but it is very encouraging.

“It is essential we continue to suppress Covid but it is a reason for optimism for 2021.”

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