Employees at the National Health Service (NHS), the publicly-funded health care system of the United Kingdom, are frustrated that administrative staff members are being offered the COVID-19 vaccine before frontline doctors and nurses, according to a recent report by The Guardian.
Around two-thirds of general practitioners (GP) have yet to receive the vaccine despite the fact that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has emerged in the country. The new variant could be associated with faster spread of the disease.
Dr. Richard Vautrey, the chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, urged the UK government to accelerate the delivery of the vaccine.
“We need millions of doses to be made available as soon as possible – urgently – because it’s the number one priority for GP practices, our patients and the nation, especially given the new mutant strain,” Vautrey told The Guardian.
“GPs who haven’t got it yet are frustrated because they want to be getting on and vaccinating their patients as well. Their frustration is understandable. They want to protect their patients, especially their vulnerable patients, as quickly as possible,” Vautrey added.
According to a report by the Daily Mail, the British Medical Association has also expressed concern that access to the vaccine has not been equal across the health service and that doctors and nurses in high-risk roles have been denied early access to the vaccine.
However, despite concerns that high-risk doctors and other NHS staff members are not getting early access to the vaccine, a spokesperson for NHS London did not provide a clear explanation as to why that is the case.
“Hospital hubs are required to vaccinate in line with clear clinical priorities independently set by JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization] and agreed by government, so in this first phase that means focusing on patients aged 80 and over as well as care homes, and it does not yet include routine NHS staff vaccination which will be next as more vaccine becomes available in the new year,” the unidentified spokesperson told The Independent.
Several nations have already banned flights from the UK over fears regarding the new strain. Such nations include France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Belgium, Canada, India, Pakistan, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Jordan and Hong Kong.
According to a report by NPR, the new COVID-19 variant in the UK is called B.1.1.7 and has acquired mutations faster than scientists expected. So far, the variant has 17 different mutations in its genetic code, eight of which are in the spike protein that binds to human cells during infection.