Responding to news that the UK has approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:
“Today’s news is most welcome and marks an incredible achievement of modern science, given less than a year ago we hadn’t even heard of Covid-19, never mind a vaccination against it. It offers hope that we will finally start to bring the pandemic to an end, but we have never tried to deliver a vaccination programme of this size, and at this speed, and there are many practical hurdles to consider and overcome.
“It’s hugely important that frontline healthcare and social care workers – at the forefront of fighting this terrible virus - are given every opportunity to get the vaccine. In the first phase of the pandemic, significant numbers of healthcare workers became seriously ill and many lost their lives to the virus. This led to scores of frontline staff being risk-assessed in terms of their vulnerability to the infection and so the BMA fully supports the JCVI recommendation that healthcare workers at highest risk from the virus should be given priority to be vaccinated.
“Those same healthcare workers – many highly experienced in providing vaccinations – will be a crucial aspect of making this roll out a success. This is the first of several Covid-19 vaccines to be approved for use but it’s also the one that presents the greatest logistical challenges in terms of storage and immunising patients outside a hospital setting. The Government and NHS England must not underestimate the scale of the challenges this programme presents. We need to make sure staff have the resources and support in place to turn this scientific breakthrough into an operational success.”
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, added:
“Today is a significant step towards overcoming Covid-19 and GPs share in the optimism of the rest of the nation as a future beyond the pandemic comes more clearly into sight.
“Practices have responded rapidly in recent weeks to put in place arrangements so that they are ready to deliver vaccinations once they are made available.
“With regard to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine specifically, we need clarification and guidance from both NHS England and the Government on how exactly practices will be involved in this first phase, given the much-publicised practical restraints around storage and transportation.
“Given these challenges – recognised by the JCVI today - some people may have to wait a little longer for a more stable vaccine to become available, and we’d urge the public to be patient. We don’t expect practices to be getting any vaccines for at least another two weeks and we believe the campaign will begin in full force in the New Year.
“In the coming months, GPs, practice nurses and support staff will play a pivotal role in vaccinating the public, protecting everyone’s health and eventually restoring life to normal."
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.
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