GPs defy calls to discard COVID-19 vaccine as second-dose jabs continue

The number of second-dose COVID-19 jabs spiked to levels not seen since the start of January over the weekend as GPs defied calls to discard unused vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Stefan Cristian Cioata/Getty Images)
COVID-19 vaccine (Photo: Stefan Cristian Cioata/Getty Images)

The BMA has said this week that doctors continue to report cases of vaccine wastage - amid pressure not to vaccinate outside of current eligible cohorts or before the 12-week gap required before a second dose.

BMA leaders have pledged to support doctors who administer jabs as second doses rather than discarding vaccine - echoing advice last month from the RCGP that GPs should ignore calls to discard vaccine.

On 30 January, when the UK administered first-dose COVID-19 jabs to a record 598,389 people, vaccination sites also administered 10,621 second doses - the highest figure seen since 12 January.

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Find out how the vaccination campaign is going: GPonline COVID-19 vaccination tracker

Second doses accounted for 1.7% of all doses administered UK-wide on 30 January - a sharp rise from 0.4% the previous day - suggesting that amid a surge in supply, vaccine sites chose to administer second doses where necessary rather than discard vaccine.

The BMA said wastage of any doses of COVID-19 vaccine was 'abhorrent', adding: 'We believe when all attempts have been made to administer first doses these supplies should be given as second doses rather than being thrown away.

'This is a fair and reasonable course of action and we will support any doctors doing so.'

The COVID-19 vaccination enhanced service, meanwhile - the contractual framework for GPs' involvement in the vaccination rollout - makes clear that vaccination sites can use doses outside of cohorts currently being targeted to avoid wastage.

The enhanced service document says: 'Vaccination will be permitted to patients outside of the announced cohort where the GP practice can demonstrate exceptional circumstances, that it is clinically appropriate and where resources would otherwise have been wasted.'

Official data on rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme show that the UK is on the brink of administering its 500,000th second-dose jab. By the end of 1 February, 496,796 people in the UK had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The bulk of second-dose vaccinations were administered in the first 10 days of January, as vaccination sites honoured bookings for second jabs at three weeks for the first groups of patients vaccinated. Around 100,000 second-dose jabs have been administered since 10 January UK-wide.

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