COVID-19: Vaccine rollout delays spark call for government to listen to GPs

·3-min read

The government has been urged to listen to the concerns of GPs over the rollout of COVID vaccines in order to avoid "frustrating and demoralising" doctors and "confusing and disappointing" patients.

On Thursday, GP surgeries across England received their first deliveries of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and began administering the jabs to patients.

However, the GP surgery visited by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday morning to mark the expanded rollout of the Oxford jab had not yet received any of the doses.

GP Ammara Hughes said Mr Hancock was "quite surprised actually to learn that we don't know when all of our deliveries are coming".

Dr Hughes said the surgery had initially been told their delivery of the Oxford vaccine had been delayed 24 hours, although they later took a delivery of 400 doses at around 4pm on Thursday.

GPs have also reported delays or cancellations with supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was the first jab to be approved and used in the UK.

Dr Richard van Mellaerts, a GP in Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey, told Sky News: "We had been expecting a delivery of two batches next week of the Pfizer vaccine.

"So just over 2,200 vaccines which we were hoping would be coming in on Monday, as our previous deliveries had done.

"We've now heard that those deliveries have been cancelled."

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Dr Rosemary Leonard, an NHS GP and medical journalist, said patients were facing a "postcode lottery".

She posted on Twitter: "My group of practices was initially told we would get our first delivery on 28th december. Then 4th jan. Then 11th jan.

"Now we are '6th wave' and it will be 13th, 14th or 15th jan. We are raring to go, but have no vaccines. WHY?"

Meanwhile, the NHS Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group, said that some vaccine appointments for the over-80s had to be postponed this week "due to circumstances outside of our control".

Binscombe Medical Centre in Godalming, Surrey, on Tuesday said vaccines were not delivered for patients booked into clinics this week "due to a problem with the supply chain".

There have also been reports of vaccine appointments having to be rescheduled in Greater Manchester amid rollout problems.

Professor Martin Marshall, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, said there "still appear to be some issues with delivery of vaccine supply to some surgeries".

"Preparing for a vaccination clinic is no easy feat, it involves meticulous planning," he said.

"Having to change these plans with little notice is frustrating and demoralising for GP teams - not to mention confusing and disappointing for patients.

"A vaccination programme being delivered at this pace and scale is bound to face teething problems.

"It's vital that GPs and their teams on the ground, running vaccination clinics, are communicated with clearly and listened to - and that any concerns they have about the rollout taken seriously, so that they can be addressed."

At a Downing Street news conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said almost 1.5 million people across the UK had received their first dose of a COVID vaccine already.

However, he admitted there would "of course" be "lumpiness and bumpiness" in the distribution of jabs in the early phases of the UK's vaccination programme.

"Today it may be that some GPs are not getting the consignments they expected," Mr Johnson said.

A government spokesperson said: "The NHS is doing everything possible to roll out doses as quickly as they can be supplied and quality checked.

"From today the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is being rolled out to GP surgeries and vaccinations will be taking place at over 1,000 sites by the end of this week."