A top doctor has cautioned there is a “real risk” that Pfizer vaccines will be wasted as a result of the abrupt U-turn on second doses for health care staff.
Dr. Lewis Morrison, BMA Scotland Chairman, said the decision left frontline workers feeling “let down and cheated.”
He added that he has also heard concerns from internal sources that there is no assurance that Pfizer’s vaccine will be available within the 12-week timeframe to deliver the second dose to NHS personnel.
The U.K. guidelines were followed by the decision to postpone the time between the first and second doses of the vaccine. Released on Dec. 30 by the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunization (JCVI).
As a consequence, dates were cancelled for NHS employees to collect their second dose from Jan. 5 to give priority to the first dose of Pfizer vaccine to nursing home patients, staff and health and social care personnel.
By early May, anyone over 50 will be vaccinated.
The decision – taken just before the turn of the year – gave health officials little time to reorganize, Dr. Morrison said, however.
“He said, “The timing of this decision also left almost no room for health departments to fairly reschedule vaccination dates scheduled to take place this week or even next week.
“We’ve received reports that this could mean that vaccination clinic slots go unused in the short term, and there’s a real risk, because of the handling of the Pfizer vaccine, that if a number of those slots are shut down and not used, there’s actually a real risk that vaccine doses will go unused.”
The Pfizer vaccine must be kept at a temperature of -70 °C and can be stored in a regular refrigerator for up to 5 days after defrosting – or up to 30, but only if it is stored in cartons and dry ice is replaced every 5 days.
As neither vaccine doses nor vaccination personnel were available, hundreds of workers who were supposed to be vaccinated yesterday at Glasgow Royal Infirmary were turned away.
The situation was characterized as a ‘omnishambles’ by one paramedic who gave up waiting.
They said, ‘I arrived at 10 a.m. for my appointment. They find no vaccines and no workers. At 11 a.m., everybody was told to come back with people who had 8-11 a.m. appointments. -and all those who had 11 a.m. appointments. -everyone trying to get to finish in line.
“Almost” from 70 to 100 participants. I’ve quit. Not sure when I can finish.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde apologised for the issues that led individuals to skip their vaccines in a statement.
“It said, “Unfortunately, vaccination workers were not on site to deliver vaccinations [on Tuesday]due to a preparation mistake. For this mistake, we apologize.
Fresh appointments were provided yesterday afternoon or later this week to anyone who missed their appointment, it added.
Call for outdoor face masks from medics
Since the U.K. became the first country in the world to begin vaccines on Dec. 8, about 100,000 citizens in Scotland were vaccinated with the Pfizer BioNTech formula.
The decision to stagger doses comes in the midst of a deteriorating situation across the UK, including a doubling since Christmas Day of coronavirus cases in Scotland.
The UK and devolved governments are hoping that it would help to minimize hospitalizations and fatalities by vaccinating more individuals with one more dose.
Clinical tests have shown that Pfizer’s vaccine is 95 percent effective after two doses and 52 percent effective after one dose in preventing covid disease. There is evidence, however, that safety may be as high as 89 percent beginning 22 days after the first dose, according to JCVI.
Dr. Morrison, a geriatric consultant based in East Lothian, said, however, that there are fears that stocks will run out.
He said, “I’ve spoken to someone who knows a little bit more about where we’re supplying the vaccine, and to be honest, no one is going to say, ‘We can absolutely guarantee that in nine to 12 weeks we’ll have X doses left from Pfizer,’ which is the time they’d need to vaccinate everyone who received the first dose.” That is a problem.
BMA Scotland is calling on the Government of Scotland to reschedule the dates for those who have already administered the Pfizer vaccine for the second dose.