GPs Will Lead COVID-19 Vaccine Programme, Says BMA

Peter Russell

November 06, 2020

GPs in England will be at the forefront of any mass immunisation programme for COVID-19, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

An agreement struck on Thursday would pave the way for vaccination to begin from early December, assuming a suitable vaccine was ready at this time, it said.

"GPs and their teams are uniquely placed to ensure that their communities are properly protected from this deadly virus," said Dr Richard Vautrey, GP Committee chair at the BMA.

However, the doctors' union warned a rollout on that scale would not be an easy task.

Earlier this week, NHS England wrote to GPs asking them to prepare for a possible December vaccination programme for the novel coronavirus.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England's chief executive, told a news conference that it was "obviously planning on the off chance that at least some vaccine is available before Christmas", but added that it was "not the central assumption that we're operating on".

Agreement Reached, Says BMA

The BMA said that agreement had now been reached between NHS England and NHS Improvement and the BMA's England GP Committee for practices to be ready from the beginning of December. dependent on whether vaccines were approved and delivered to surgeries.

Practices would work together in their local area, initially with vaccinations taking place at one site – most likely a nominated practice, the BMA said.

Participation in the programme would be optional, it added, saying that NHS England would release more details in due course.

Different vaccines pose different logistical challenges, with some needing to be kept at -70C or below.

"So, it's going to be a combination of what GPs are able to do, community pharmacists, but also mass vaccination centres," which Sir Simon said on Wednesday would pose "logistical challenges".

Dr Vautrey said: "GPs and their teams are uniquely placed to ensure that their communities are properly protected from this deadly virus. And with their proven track record in delivering widespread vaccination campaigns, such as this year's flu programme, they are absolutely the right people to be leading this COVID-19 vaccination drive.

However, he added: "We are under no illusion that this will be an easy task.

"Not only are these very complex vaccines – for example they need special storage conditions – but a campaign of this scale will be a huge undertaking for practices already struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic, as well as supporting the large number of patients with other healthcare concerns."

NHS England did not respond to a request from Medscape News UK for further details about any agreement.

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