Doctors claim that immunization centers should be open around the clock and that hiring retired health workers will help achieve the target.
In order to meet the target of immunizing 30 million people by summer, ministers have called for vaccination centers to be open around the clock.
So far, approximately 950,000 individuals have been vaccinated with an initial dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by primary care doctors and hospital staff, and approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could mean that millions more doses will be available in the coming weeks and months.
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health minister, said, “This is now a race against time and there is not a moment to lose,” “We need ministers to move heaven and earth to start vaccinating at 2 million doses a week to save lives and fulfill the government’s spring promise to ease restrictions.”
Family doctors have called for more clarification about the role they will play in administering these vaccinations, stressing that they will not be able to achieve the summer target without additional funding.
GPs have been given very little details about how they would function and who would run them, despite the talk of mass vaccination centers to be run at soccer stadiums and horse racing tracks, said Prof. Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs. “It would be useful to know what the plans are, and it would certainly be useful to know what general practice is expected to deliver,” he said.
“If we’re going to have 30 million people vaccinated twice in six months, which I think is realistic, it can’t be done by general practice alone. The workforce is not large enough to make that happen and provide the usual services for the acutely ill, the long-term sick, pediatric vaccinations, and cervical cancer screening and all those things.”
He called for an immediate discussion about the role that could be played by retired medical professionals. “We have tens of thousands of recently retired primary care physicians, doctors, surgeons, nurses who desperately want to come back, even as unpaid volunteers, and they are desperately discouraged from doing so by the bureaucratic process that prevents them from doing so,” said Marshall.
“Some of these bureaucratic requirements are ridiculous, like requiring fire safety certification or radicalization prevention. There are people who have experience giving a vaccination and dealing with anaphylaxis when someone has had an allergic reaction, so you don’t need to see their O-level certificates or a lot of the other paperwork they’re being asked for.”
Others advised the government to draw on the experience of supply chains in the military and manufacturing. Dr. Bharat Pankhania, a communicable disease specialist at the University of Exeter who was also active in the 2009 swine flu pandemic response, said, “Medical professionals do what they are trained to do, but they are not trained to be logisticians,” “We need to harness this knowledge and capability that comes from other sectors but that we could easily use [to deliver vaccines quickly].”
A spokesperson for the Defense Department said the military has not yet been asked to assist in providing Covid vaccines, but there are around 130 medically trained military personnel on standby. “The armed forces have personnel, including expert planners, logisticians and medics, ready to support the outbreak response if needed,” it said.
Another solution to consider is the distribution of 24/7 vaccines, Pankhania said. “I understand that elderly or frail people can’t get vaccinated at 3 a.m., but there are many fit and healthy people who would willingly go to a well-lit, well-managed place at 3 a.m. because it’s better to get the vaccine than not,” he said.
Having it a 24/7 operation also sends a strong indication that the government is concerned, that this is a plan to bring the nation back on its feet as soon as possible, but that in the meantime, people need to follow infection prevention procedures.’