In a letter to GPs BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that practice teams 'should take pride’ in their achievement in delivering vaccines to the most vulnerable patients while continuing to deliver routine care.
Delivering so many vaccinations would not have been possible without everyone in general practice teams playing their part, the Leeds GP said - and he stressed that there was ‘still much to do’ before the pandemic could be brought to an end.
His message comes after GP-led vaccination sites delivered a staggering 10m doses of vaccine in the past month alone as the UK met its target of offering a first dose to 15m people by 15 February.
GP-led local vaccination sites have delivered the lion’s share of COVID-19 vaccinations, practices in primary care network (PCN) groups mobilising to contact patients and deliver jabs.
NHS officials say that around three quarters of all vaccinations have been completed by GP-led sites - suggesting that GPs had delivered around 11.7m doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 13 February since local sites joined the vaccine campaign from 14 December.
Official figures show that 15,300,151 people UK-wide had received a first dose of vaccine by 14 February - including 12,862,909 in England. More than 500,000 people have received a second dose.
Dr Vautrey celebrated the role general practice had played in the national vaccine campaign, thanking colleagues for their continued efforts. He said: ‘General practice has played a crucially important role in protecting the most vulnerable through vaccination, while also continuing to deliver routine care to those who need it.
General practice teams
‘This has been an amazing effort during the most challenging of times and despite some harsh winter weather, and we should all take pride that so much has been done in such a short space of time.
‘Hitting this initial goal has been a major achievement and it could not have happened without everyone playing their part… whether you’re booking patients into appointments, re-working staffing rotas, setting up vaccination sites, administering vaccines… your hard work and dedication have made this happen.'
‘The positive feedback from patients is a clear sign of how appreciated your involvement has been’. As we pass the milestone of 15 million people receiving their first dose of #COVID19 vaccine, @RVautrey has written to thank everybody who has been involved in the programme so far pic.twitter.com/pBCxk9a53k— General Practice (@BMA_GP) February 15, 2021
He added: ‘We know that this is just the beginning, and that we not only need to reach out to more of our patients in the coming weeks, but also provide second doses to the millions we have already seen. There is still much to do, but I know general practice will meet the challenge head on and continue to play our part in bringing the pandemic to the end’.
The challenge of vaccinating huge numbers of patients at speed led to some PCNs delivering vaccinations from unusual settings, including Salisbury cathedral, a Birmingham mosque and Lord’s cricket ground.
GPs have also responded to the challenges presented to them during the vaccination campaign, with one GP federation setting up a mobile clinic in a bus to increase uptake among vulnerable patients. One PCN also battled severe floods to continue inoculations.
GPs began vaccinating patients in 'cohort 6' - those aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions - on 15 February, and will focus on administering second doses for other patients from 1 March.