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Vaccinations Update

by Dr Mark Howcutt – 12th November 2020
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We have now received more flu vaccine for our at-risk patients who are under 65 years of age. Please book online if you can or ring the surgery to book an appointment.

The flu vaccines for patients aged 50-64 not at high risk are still not available from the government stocks. We will update our website and Facebook page once we have any further information.

Please note our last flu clinic for our at-risk patients aged under 65 and any remaining over 65 year olds will be on Thursday 19th November.

Thank you for your ongoing support and patience over this challenging time.

Below is some generic information that I have cut-and-pasted from another useful UK source.

Dr Mark Howcutt
Haddenham Medical Centre

Q: Headlines suggest that we will be able to get a "Covid vaccine by Xmas from GPs". What does this mean for me?

A: Whilst we certainly want to be involved in any vaccination campaign, we don't have full information ourselves yet, but we expect more information soon.

Q: Will you be getting paid to vaccinate us?

A: GPs hold a contract with the NHS to provide certain services. The money from that contract pays for the building, the heating and electricity, the nurses, receptionists and staff, clinical equipment and a variety of other expenses that go with providing services to patients.

If the government wants GPs to do something new, (e.g. deliver a new vaccine) it will buy that service from the GP to pay for the extra staff, clinics and hours to cover expenses. GPs will not make a profit out of the Covid vaccine. Based on current information it is likely they will make a loss, but recognise that it is the right thing to do for their patients and communities.

But what we don't know, is what we might have to consider stop doing, to free up time to provide this vaccination service, given that GPs are already working much harder compared with this time last year.

Q: But isn't it just like a flu jab?

A: No, not by a long stretch.

Flu jabs are delivered in their own little syringes and kept refrigerated. They can safely last in a vaccine fridge for several months. We can keep them and use them, either in dedicated flu clinics or opportunistically if we see you for something else. We can run the clinics a bit like a conveyor belt, as I'm sure many of you will have experienced! We can get a large number of people vaccinated in a very short period of time. People then leave the practice immediately. Each person only needs to attend the vaccination clinic once each year.

Q: So what's different about a new Covid vaccine compared with the flu jab?

A: These new vaccines are not yet ready, and we don't know when they will be. They are completely different. They need to be stored frozen in special dry ice, colder than a home freezer (about -80°C). Surgeries don't have those freezers. So they will be delivered whilst they are defrosting for use. Once defrosted, they can only be stored in a vaccine fridge for a few days before expiring.

They don't come in their own little syringes. We will have to carefully draw them up from a main vial, dilute and mix them for each individual so each jab will probably take about 10-20 minutes in total, probably needing two members of staff (one to draw up, one to check – this is established safe practise with these preparations to minimise error).

Once you have received your Covid-jab you will be asked to wait for 15 minutes to ensure you are then ok to go – these vaccines are brand new, and whilst there is a huge regulatory framework to ensure their safety, we will have to take extra care. This is usual when delivering a new vaccine.

This in itself will be difficult as we have to maintain social distancing and we don't know how quickly these clinics will run. It will be nowhere near as quick as a flu clinic. In recent research trials, the process from start to finish for each patient is about 30 minutes.

Q: Will this be at my local GP surgery?

A: To begin with, NHS England thinks that areas will have one big central Covid-jab centre. This might be in a local practice. It might be yours, it might not. It might be in a local 'pod' run by the local NHS. You may have to travel. We do not yet know how the chosen centre will continue to look after its patients' ongoing and urgent health need. No details of those plans have been shared yet.

Q: Is it just one jab?

A: No. You will need two. They will be 3-4 weeks apart but you must not have had any other vaccinations (like the flu jab) in the previous week.

Q: How many patients will get it the vaccine when it's ready?

A: Government says it wants 40 million people vaccinated (that's 80 million appointments). Putting that into context, every year there are 40 million A&E attendances and 360 million GP appointments. This is going to take a long time. There are no spare GPs or practice nurses. We don't yet know how we are going to plan for this on top of what we are doing now – managing acute and chronic patients every day: on the phone, over video and being invited to the surgery.

Q: Will it be available by Christmas?

A: No-one knows. But if it is, there will be a very small number of doses and we think the Government might suggest protecting Care Home residents first.

Whatever you read in the paper or online, don't forget – this is going to be very different from flu vaccinations. We need to make sure there is a safe system. So please bear with us – there is much we don't yet know either.

The bottom line is that there is still every reason to think 'Hands, Face, Space' for a long time to come, well into 2021.

(adapted from Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer's edited version of a post originally written by Dr Russell Brown)

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