It is a daily puzzle that has kept medical staff afloat since the vaccine spread began. How do you avoid consuming leftover doses and also ensure that those most in need get priority?
In the early stages of the vaccination scheme, the answers came easily. Younger medical workers who were on the the government priority list they were taken from hospital wards or GP surgeries to receive vaccines from the few doses left at the end of the clinic. As the numbers of people receiving their first dose went into the millions, volunteers at vaccination clinics followed the next line.
But now they’re all kicked in, vaccines are turning to police officers, firefighters, taxi drivers, teachers, supermarket staff and family and friends – anyone who can be contacted. easy and free to take to the clinic in a few minutes without notice. .
The alternative would be unbelievable – throwing away perfectly usable vaccine doses when millions of people are still at risk of catching and giving up Covid.
Yet that practice has been praised and criticized by political leaders and senior NHS figures, and now a strange code of omertà the suspension over the vaccination program.
“You can’t use my name,” said one GP Spectator, “Or what city am I in. If you do, we will all receive an email telling us that we should not do it. But we are not allowed to have vaccines. ”
“There is no official guidance,” said another. “Just don’t waste the vaccine. We just need to do what makes sense. It was pretty easy at first when we were targeting people over 70, and you have some 55-year-olds. You think ‘well, they’re going to be done in at least two weeks’.
“But as you start to go down the list, it starts to get controversial. And now that we’re doing the first nine categories, the next ones are under 50 years old. ”
The figures were compiled by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Vaccination which set priorities based on age and vulnerability. Everyone in the first nine groups – and anyone 50 or older – should have been offered an injection by the end of March.
Leaving is an inevitable result of a long-distance vaccination campaign. When 350 people are booked to a clinic at a few days notice, some do not show up.
But the Pfizer vaccine lasts for three days when disinfected, and it and the AstraZeneca vaccine have expiry dates. And there are usually extra doses in the vaccine filters. “Pfizer has five, but we get six,” said one of the GPs. “The 10-dose filters can give you AstraZeneca 13.”
She described the clinic as a courtship activity: “At the end, you will work out how many doses you have left – hopefully no more than one or two. All you booked should be in peers one to nine. So you start looking for someone else. ”
“Fire stations have been alerted to anyone who is not working,” said one NHS source. “Caregivers take their 80-year-old mother to get their injection. Taxi drivers.
“On days when it’s been a bit quiet, they’ve been reaching out to local school leaders unofficially,” said a volunteer at a vaccination clinic in London. “Incoming teachers, police and women – people on front services, people we believe should get it anyway.”
“We try not to pull people off the streets,” said one GP who runs a vaccination center. “That’s not there to run a clinic. But our chief merchant has the number of a local police station, and we have also received a call from a local high school saying ‘our staff would be keen to get the vaccine. “
Both Labor and vaccine minister Nadim Zahawi had said in February that they believed key workers should be prioritized for vaccinations, but JCVI’s guidance issued later did not address the issue. that month a special status for them on the basis that most senior employees were not at higher risk of contracting Covid because of the role.
Some clinics have ended up throwing away products. A woman in her 30s told the Spectator how it was turned away after a friend who worked at a clinic in East Anglia said they had to find people for the remaining five doses of Pfizer. “When I arrived I simply said I had been told there were doses left. The woman looked at me and said ‘how’s that going to look on social media? ‘It was as if it was very immoral for me to even be there.
“But then my friend told me that those five doses had been consumed. I fully understand that I am not a high priority organization. I would not want to push my way in front of anyone. But I think I was worth more than a bin. ”
NHS England asked GPs in January to make reserved lists of patients who could attend clinics without much warning, and surprisingly there was little waste. A freedom of information request revealed that only 1,055 strokes had been consumed out of 156,262 Pfizer doses used before January 8th.
But with the restriction on AstraZeneca’s vaccine supply in April and still unauthorized going beyond the nine-cohort, GPs are now asking how to deal with remaining doses.
“We can’t go into group 10,” said a GP who runs a vaccination center. “We need to stop running clinics. If another use requires a few filters, we can help. But to run a working clinic, I need more than 300 patients.
“When we first started, the slots were recorded in two hours. Now we are putting them out and we don’t have enough. If we could join a group of 10, there are a lot of people waiting. It’s very sad. ”