The BMA is urgently calling for all health and social care workers to be vaccinated no later than the end of January and those at greatest risk of contracting Covid-19 within two weeks. The Association says this is essential to protect an already depleted workforce and to help prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed in the next three weeks.
So far the Government’s approach to vaccinating staff has been ad hoc and often chaotic; some hospital trusts and GP practices have been able to vaccinate reasonable numbers of staff, others very few, or not at all. The slow pace of vaccination is leading to very significant staff absences because they either have the virus or are having to self-isolate - this has a direct knock on impact on patient care. The BMA is also keen to ensure that no vaccines go to waste due to poor organisation at vaccination sites.
The BMA is backing calls for second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be offered as soon as possible, in line with World Health Organisation guidance.
The BMA Chair of Council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “There are almost 27,000 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospitals in England – an increase of more than 50% since Christmas Day. Hospitals are becoming like warzones, and healthcare workers are the exhausted foot soldiers on the front line. GPs are similarly pushed to the limit delivering an unprecedented mass vaccination programme in the community seven days a week.
"All of these workers are at constant risk of becoming infected, yet they are, beyond all doubt, the most important cog in the Covid-19 ‘care machine'. If they fall ill with the virus and cannot work, there will be reduced care, fewer vaccinations given, fewer medical procedures and less patients getting better and going home from hospital where they may then need GP care; they are also at huge risk and working often 18 hour days.
“The Prime Minister has promised that 13 million vaccinations will be given by the middle of February. This is a mammoth task and we need assurances from the Government that the supply of vaccines can match that target, that health and care staff are a priority, and that they can book an appointment to be vaccinated from next week.
"Vaccinating health and care workers won’t stop them being exhausted, and won’t stop them feeling the stress and anxiety of not having enough time, or beds, to give patients the care they need. But it will give them protection from this deadly virus and drive down on rates of sickness absence and necessary isolating, which are leaving services brutally exposed. Giving all healthcare workers a Covid-19 vaccination could save their lives so they can help save yours.”
The BMA will be running a survey of members twice a week to track how quickly the Government is getting doctors protected and will be holding the government to account for any shortfall in our demands for rapid vaccination and protection.
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.