‘A long haul’ - GP says Norfolk will cope with coronavirus vaccine roll out
- Credit: Archant
A Norfolk GP has said the roll-out of a coronavirus vaccine will be the “biggest vaccination campaign in NHS history” - but that the county’s GPs would be able to cope.
On Monday, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced its coronavirus vaccine has been found to be more than 90pc effective, marking a major breakthrough in global efforts to bring the virus under control and sparking hopes of mass vaccination programs.
Tim Morton, a practising GP and chairman of the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee (LMC) said while the roll-out of a vaccine would pose a number of logistical challenges he was confident the county’s GP practices would be able to rise to the challenge.
He said among the obstacles to overcome were the scale of the operation ahead, the geography of Norfolk and how the vaccine needed to be stored and administered.
Dr Morton, who is also GP committee member at British Medical Association, said: “We as a county challenged by age and that we have urban and large rural areas. It will fall to individual areas to come up with the best way to deliver the vaccine.”
He said the potential vaccine posed a number of logistical difficulties when compared to the standard flu vaccine due to its shelf-life and how it has to be stored, defrosted, and diluted before it is administered to patients.
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Local vaccination hubs formed by groups of GP surgeries may be set up to deliver the vaccine to the public, according to Dr Morton.
He said: “This is going to be quite a long haul to vaccinate so many people and we also need to mitigate the effect on GP appointments and normal surgery.
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“GPs have remained open throughout the pandemic and consistently responded to the challenge and seen even more patients.”
Dr Morton, who is a GP at Beccles Medical Practice, said he was concerned about the wellbeing of his colleagues across the county, and extra pressure the vaccination program may create.
He said the number of doses available to Norfolk would initially be very limited.
“I’m not expecting to start quickly because we will get a very limited supply of the vaccine at first, so I couldn’t say that a mass vaccination initiative will be rolled out before the New Year,” he said.
“We will target care home residents and staff in the first incidence and then health care staff.”
Dr Morton also urged caution over the vaccine’s potential effects, saying it was the not only measure which will see life go back to normal.
“This is not the panacea that will make coronavirus go away, it’s part of the long term road to recovery so I would currently ask the people of Norfolk to carry on following the health care advice, wearing masks, hand washing and social distancing,” he said.
Dr Morton also asked people not to inundate their GPs practices with requests for the vaccine and to wait for public health messaging on the vaccination program, when it started.
On Tuesday, a letter was sent out all primary care providers in the country telling them how “urgent preparation” was needed so GP practices would be ready for the roll out of a Covid-19 vaccination program.
The seven-page letter detailed how plans for the “deployment of a Covid-19 vaccine build on the tried-and-tested rollout plans for influenza vaccine.”
It added, “Given the uncertainty over whether, and when, a vaccine may be approved” health bosses were “planning to be ready from any date from December with mass vaccination more likely in the New Year.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS has well established plans for delivering vaccinations across the country including the annual flu jab and children’s immunisations and work is underway to build on these tried and tested approaches, so that when a vaccine is ready, staff can deliver it safely.”
“GPs will play an important part in delivering a Covid vaccine as soon as it is ready and exact arrangements, which will be announced shortly, will include funding to reflect the complex logistics and preparations required.”