London (AP) – British Health Minister Matt Hancock appeared in a London doctor’s office this week to highlight the start of coronavirus vaccinations by local GPs.
There was only one problem: there was no vaccine. He did not arrive in time for the Hancock press conference.
It was an embarrassing moment for the UK’s top health official and a reminder of the challenges Britain faces as it competes to vaccinate around 15 million people by mid-February.
GPs such as Dr. Amara Hughes are crucial to the National Health Service̵
“It’s just more frustrating than worrying,” Dr. Hughes told Sky News. “If we had a regular supply, we have the capacity to vaccinate 3,000-4,000 patients a week … which would ease the pressure on the health service and we could get more people vaccinated quickly and hopefully get out of the pandemic. ”
To ensure that vaccines arrive at the right place at the right time, along with syringes, alcohol swabs and the protective equipment needed to administer them, the government has called in the military.
Brigadier Phil Prosser directs the army’s response. He is the commander of the 101st Logistics Brigade, which usually supplies supplies to British forces in war zones.
“My team is used to building complexity and building fast supply chains in the most difficult and challenging conditions,” Prosser said during a briefing on Thursday. “In this case, the mission is to support the NHS in delivering the maximum amount of vaccine in order to reduce the number of infections and deaths as quickly and safely as possible.”
The stakes cannot be higher for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, as it is battling a new, more contagious version of the coronavirus that has swept across Britain, forcing it into a third national blockade.
The number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals in the United Kingdom is now 50% higher than during the first peak of infections, and the deaths reported on Friday reached 1325 – the largest number since the beginning of the pandemic.
The rise in infection threatens to overwhelm hospitals, putting more pressure on doctors and nurses who are already tired after nearly a year of the pandemic.
“We hear about people being treated in ambulances and parking lots outside the hospital because there is no room for people to enter,” said Dr Tom Dolphin, a hospital anesthesiologist and spokesman for the British Medical Association. “It comes to the point where we struggle to maintain core standards in some hospitals.”
The government aims to deliver the first doses of the vaccine to anyone over the age of 70, as well as to first-line health workers, caregivers and anyone whose health makes them particularly vulnerable to the virus by the middle of next month. That’s more than 15 million people.
Since Britain became the first country to launch a mass vaccination program on December 8, the NHS has taken pictures of nearly 1.5 million weapons.
It plans to offer vaccinations in hundreds of general practitioners’ offices and community pharmacies. There will also be seven mass vaccination centers in congress centers and sports stadiums, as well as 223 hospital sites.
“This is a national challenge on a scale like nothing we have seen before, and will require unprecedented national efforts,” Johnson said.
But can the NHS deliver an average of more than 2 million photos a week over the next six weeks?
“My opinion is that the vaccine schedule is realistic, but not easy,” Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said on Tuesday.
The United Kingdom has registered nearly 80,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the deadliest epidemic in Europe and the fifth highest in the world. The pandemic prevented families from meeting, left 819,000 people unemployed and devastated businesses forced to close due to restrictions designed to control the spread.
While the government has agreed to purchase vaccines from seven different manufacturers, UK regulators have so far allowed the use of only those made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna.
The UK has the right to buy up to 140 million doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca photos, barely enough to give its 67 million residents the required two doses. The 17 million doses of Moderna will not arrive until spring.
But supplies are not guaranteed due to global demand and the challenges of producing, testing and delivering vaccines.
To stretch limited supplies, the UK has already taken the controversial step of delaying the second dose of the vaccine by up to three months so that it can give the first dose to as many people as possible.
Although strengthening the vaccination program will be complex, the NHS structure is likely to help it succeed, said Siva Anandachiwa, chief political analyst at King’s Fund, a think tank focused on improving health care in England.
“The main concern is the cavalry to help deliver the vaccine,” Anandachiva said. “The workforce in primary care is key to the next phase of transition.”
But these forces are already stretched by the pandemic and everyone in the NHS is tired. However, GPs will be asked to work harder.
“They are extending the hours to make sure that as many people as possible can get the vaccine,” Anandachiva said. “So that will be a long slogan for the next few months.”
But it’s a bright spot in the dark. David Halley, 83, was happy to receive his vaccine from a local doctor this week.
“I don’t want to get sick, I have a family and grandchildren, etc., so it’s important,” he said. I thought … Is it fair to go? And then I thought, well, if I don’t, then I’m going to take a bed in the intensive care unit that someone else can use, which would be a waste of time and oxygen. So it’s best to do it. “
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