Chris Whitty has warned vaccine shortages could last for months as GPs blast Britain’s ‘grossly unfair’ plan to delay thousands of vulnerable people’s second dose of a Covid-19 jab so that more people can receive their first injection.
Chris Whitty, joined by CMOs for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, say the first dose offers ‘substantial protection,’ from Covid-19, after facing criticism from GPs and consultants.
Margaret Keenan, the first person in the world to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, received her second jab earlier this week.
But thousands of others across Britain will see their second appointment delayed so the NHS can focus on delivering jabs to more people.
A total of 944,539 people across the UK had received a Covid-19 vaccine dose by December 27, according to the Department of Health.
The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) warned the ‘ill thought-out’ plan to delay the second dose would leave many vulnerable staff in limbo.
The criticism comes as Britain recorded 55,892 new Covid-19 infections yesterday, as well as 964 deaths.
Margaret Keenan returned to hospital this week to receive her second round of the Covid-19 vaccine, but thousands of other patients are set to see their appointments delayed under a new scheme aimed at getting more people to receive their first dose
Around a million people have now received their first coronavirus vaccination but the UK’s chief medical officers have urged doctors to back ‘decisive action’ to combat the ‘pandemic which is running rampant in our communities’.
A joint statement from England’s Professor Chris Whitty and the CMOs of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the public would ‘understand’ and ‘thank’ them for a plan to give first jabs as a priority, delaying the follow up vaccination for others.
As Safford Cordery, NHS Providers deputy chief executive, warned ‘we are in for a very difficult new year,’ Mr Whitty suggested vaccine shortages could last for months.
In the joint letter to medics across the country, Mr Whitty shortages are ‘a reality that cannot be wished away’.
The letter was published following comments from Paul Donaldson, general secretary of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA).
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said vaccine shortage ‘is a reality that cannot be wished away,’ in a joint letter with CMO from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales
He said: ‘While a planned and orderly deployment of the Oxford vaccination including longer timelines makes epidemiological sense, the decision to throw a spanner in the works of the existing Pfizer rollout appears simply bizarre unless there is an unknown hitch in supply.
‘We are hearing that vulnerable hospital doctors at high risk from Covid have been told not to turn up for their second dose and therefore will not receive full protection.
‘They are now left in limbo by a hastily formulated policy which seems extremely ill thought-out.’
Other healthcare experts have said the move to delay second doses will cause huge problems for thousands of partially vaccinated elderly and vulnerable people.
Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: ‘It is grossly and patently unfair to tens of thousands of our most at-risk patients to now try to reschedule their appointments.
‘The decision to ask GPs, at such short notice, to rebook patients for three months hence will also cause huge logistical problems for almost all vaccination sites and practices.
‘For example, to make contact with even just 2,000 elderly or vulnerable patients will take a team of five staff at a practice about a week, and that’s simply untenable.’
The deployment of the newly approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will begin on Monday, almost a month after the roll out of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but second doses of either will now take place within 12 weeks rather than 21 days as initially planned.
In response to criticism from GP leaders about the change of plan, the joint statement said while it was ‘difficult’ to reschedule second jabs, it was better to offer more people the ‘substantial protection’ given by the first dose within two to three weeks, as the UK waits for more vaccine stocks to become available.
Meanwhile, GPs are being offered £10 for every care home resident they vaccinate in a drive by NHS England to reach the majority of those deemed top priority by the end of January.