I’ve written to the Vaccines Minister to raise problems I’ve been told about with the way vaccinations are being organised, and how boroughs are being funded to help.
The Assembly has received very worrying reports of people being thrown into confusion over coronavirus vaccine appointments. I’ve heard from doctors in London that some people are being invited twice – by different systems for the same injection – by their local GPs and the national vaccination scheme.
Dr Farah Jameel, a GP in Camden who was representing the British Medical Association at a London Assembly Plenary meeting, told me that too many patients were receiving two invites: first locally to visit their GP, and then a postal invite from the national mass vaccination programme telling them to book online to go to a test centre.
We heard that the time of clinicians was ‘being wasted’ over this duplication of effort and that some patients were now understandably assuming they were being offered their second coronavirus jabs when duplicate invites arrived.
As the vaccine rollout continues (and with the next groups of people due to be immunised being much larger as we move after 15 February from over-70s to target everyone over 50) this confusion over appointments could become a significant issue, especially as numbers of patients coming in for different doses increases.
At the Assembly meeting this week, we also heard that GPs are currently often given notice of just two or three days before thousands of vaccinations are supplied to them.
At the meeting, we separately spoke with the Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi MP. I tackled him about the number of London boroughs that have missed out on funding to promote vaccine take-up among groups who are proving difficult to reach, including some Black and Asian residents.
Several London boroughs with high populations from these groups and high levels of deprivation are not yet receiving any of this Community Champions funding, including Enfield, Croydon, Southwark, Newham, Waltham Forest, Wandworth, Barking and Dagenham and Tower Hamlets.
Following up on the issues raised, I have written to the minister asking him to solve this co-ordination at a national level.
I am extremely worried about the duplication of effort in vaccine appointments, and the confusion and worry being caused for patients who want to do the right thing and get their vaccination at the proper time.
This problem, if not solved soon, will get worse. London has a younger than average population. This means far higher numbers in the middle band due to be vaccinated in the next phase will be crossing paths with group 1-4 patients coming back for their second dose.
Most of this will be happening at GP surgeries so it’s vital that this is carefully organised and properly co-ordinated so we avoid another costly mistake in how the pandemic response is organised by the Government.
Local boroughs and GPs have a great network already so to not work with that and put a huge national programme over the top without using the local resources already in place is bound to cause issues.
I hope the minister will act to solve this urgently, and do more to support London boroughs and GPs through this next, more complex stage of getting vaccine protection to our residents.
Watch my questions to the NHS teams and the minister: