Covid-19 Vaccination programme

I am sure you have all heard the news that some Covid-19 vaccinations will soon be available.

I am not circulating this information to start a debate about vaccinations – having a vaccination is a personal choice which everyone is free to make for themselves.

We do not yet have a lot of specific information. All we know, is that we have to be ready to potentially start vaccinating from December 1st.

We have to work as a Primary Care Network (PCN) to deliver this programme, so Stansted, Elsenham, John Tasker House, Angel Lane and Eden Surgeries will be working together.

Between our 5 surgeries, we look after 50 000 patients. Each PCN have to nominate a lead surgery, and Stansted Surgery is the lead surgery for our PCN. This makes sense, as we are already the lead practice for our PCN for finance and management (with Elsenham), and our Dr Henderson is the Clinical Director of our PCN.

Our PCN is working hard on coming up with the best solution to delivering the programme to our patients. We are exploring all options. We may start the programme by using Stansted Surgery premises, but may have to find a bigger central location to deliver the wider programme. Our PCN have an excellent working relationship, and I am sure we will be successful in delivering this programme.

We have access to some limited additional funding  to hopefully recruit some additional short term clinical and support staff to help us with this huge programme – however, we will still have to divert our own GPs, nurses, healthcare assistants, pharmacists, paramedics and physician associates to complete this programme. 

It will be tough, but we are keen to get started, and know that we can count on your understanding and support in the months to come.

Why is this programme different to the annual seasonal flu campaign?

While we still have no specifics about the characteristics of these new vaccinations, we do know that they won’t initially be delivered to us in single, pre-filled doses, as they do for flu vaccinations. Each vaccination has to be reconstituted and individually drawn up – which slows the process down. Each patient will have to have 2 doses – currently we do not know how much time there needs to be between the two vaccinations. 

Clinics will still have to be held on a socially distanced basis, and patients driving themselves to their appointment, have to wait 15 minutes post vaccination before they can leave the surgery/vaccination site. So logistically – a bit of a nightmare!

Why work as a PCN – why not as individual surgeries?

The reasoning behind this is that the first vaccine (Pfizer) to be delivered is likely to be one with 975 doses which need to be delivered in 5 days  – (195 vials each containing 5 doses). This will come with a diluent and the required needles and syringes. Once diluted the vaccine must be used within 6 hours.  

It is unlikely a single practice would have sufficient numbers or clinical capacity to deliver this individually. In addition the package of 195 vials cannot be divided at practice level and shared with other practices due to the regulations related to the distribution of medications. This is also why you will have heard about us having to deliver the programme 7 days a week, from 8am to 8pm – including bank holidays, Christmas day, Boxing Day ect. If we got 975 doses delivered on a Friday, we can’t just put it in the fridge to start using on the next Monday, as the vaccine has to be used up in 5 days.

At this stage, we do not know if we will have any control or choice over our delivery schedule.

The vaccine will be in short supply and we must try and keep wastage to a minimum.

As the programme progresses, and more vaccine becomes available, we may be able to adjust how we deliver the programme

Which patients will practices need to vaccinate?

This is still not fully clear. The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations has recommended the following order:

  1. older adults’ resident in a care home and care home workers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. high-risk adults under 65 years of age
  7. moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
  8. all those 60 years of age and over
  9. all those 55 years of age and over
  10. all those 50 years of age and over
  11. rest of the population (priority to be determined) but current vaccines only for those aged 18 and over.

However, this is not confirmed – this will depend on the characteristics of the vaccines being administered. It is unlikely that surgeries will have any control over this part of the programme

We will do our best to keep you informed – this programme is bound to be subject to many changes…