NI coronavirus vaccine roll-out: GPs raise concern about supply amid worry of speed of roll-out to ‘higher priority groups’
The Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland has spoken out about concerns over the supply of vaccines.
Dr Laurence Dorman, who chairs the organisation, was responding to the decision to open Trust vaccination centres to those aged 65-69 while those aged 70-79 are asked to wait for an appointment to see their GP.
He said GPs “have concerns about the speed of vaccine rollout to those people in higher priority groups.”
Dr Dorman said GPs’ concerns have been made known to the Stormont health department.
“We fully support the principle of vaccinating as many people as possible, as quickly as possible and it is encouraging to see such high demand for appointments since the booking portal launched on Wednesday night,” he said. “However, we have concerns about the speed of vaccine rollout to those people in higher priority groups.
“GPs and their teams stand ready to roll out the vaccination programme to those aged 70 and over, including those patients who have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV), however this rollout is entirely dependent on a steady, reliable supply of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.”
Dr Dorman continued: “Our main challenge is ensuring GPs receive vaccination supplies as quickly as possible, otherwise those people in the more vulnerable age and clinical categories will be waiting longer for protection against COVID-19.
“We also have concerns that patients, who are understandably anxious for information, are phoning their GP practices trying to determine when they, or their loved ones, will be called for their vaccine. This is additional work for practice teams, who are working as hard as they can to maintain GP services, while taking forward the vaccination campaign.”
He added: “We have raised these issues with the Department of Health and hope that supply delays will be resolved so that GPs can get on with the job and give people the protection they need from COVID-19. We urge everyone to be patient. GPs, trust vaccine teams and officials in the Department of Health are working to protect as many people as possible and while challenges remain, we are hopeful that all of our patients will be vaccinated soon.”
The Royal College of GPs, in a statement, has also urged the public to follow three key messages.
A spokesperson said: “Please do not contact your GP surgery with queries about vaccine availability. Practice phone lines are exceptionally busy, particularly during the winter period, and we assure patients that we will contact you when it is your time for vaccine.
“Vaccination is the most effective health intervention and has saved millions of lives across the world from diseases such as polio, measles and meningitis. We urge everyone to take the vaccine when it is offered and only seek information about vaccines from reliable sources.
“As we try to ensure we’re vaccinating vulnerable patients as efficiently as possible, we will be busier than normal. Please be patient and remember that we will always have provision for urgent health needs.”