Covid-19 vaccine: Plea for Scottish Government to assuage public 'anxiety' at delay to second doses

The Scottish Government has faced calls to mitigate “anxiety” among patients after plans were changed around the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.

Patients who had previously been scheduled to receive the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine three to four weeks after the first will now be given the two doses up to 12 weeks apart.

Representatives in England of trade union the British Medical Association (BMA) criticised the “grossly unfair” new guidance, saying it would cause “huge logistical problems” for GP practices having to re-organise appointments.

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Chair of BMA Scotland Dr Lewis Morrison said the change had cased “anxiety” for some patients and staff, and called on the Scottish Government to reassure the public the delayed second dose would not reduce levels of protection afforded by the vaccine.

Resident Margaret Keating, 88, receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton.
Resident Margaret Keating, 88, receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Abercorn House Care Home in Hamilton.

"The announcement that anyone who has received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will now not receive their second dose until up to 12 weeks after the first, rather than after three to four weeks as was planned, has clearly caused anxiety for some patients, families and staff,” he said.

"We have sought, and had strong reassurances from the Scottish Government, that there is clear evidence that this delay will not affect the level of protection these individuals will get against Covid.

"They have promised additional public messaging to make that clear and to maintain the confidence that public and health and social staff should have in the vaccination programme as it rolls out."

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Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA GP committee of England, said it was “grossly and patently unfair” to reschedule vaccination appointments of at-risk patients.

"Local leaders are telling us that is unprofessional and impractical to amend the appointments for thousands of frail elderly patients, particularly those booked and who have already made arrangements to have their second vaccination in the next two weeks,” he said.

"The decision to ask GPs, at such short notice, to rebook patients for three months hence will also cause huge logistical problems for almost all vaccination sites and practices.”

The first people to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Scotland on December 8 would have been due their second dose this week.

Some patients in England have already been given their second dose as the English administration briefly continued with the original guidance.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this week that Scotland would follow updated guidance from the four-nation Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which allows for the delivery of the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine up to 12 weeks after the first.

This is the same as the recommended time period between doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

"It is now recommended that the second dose of both vaccines can be given up to 12 weeks after the first, rather than three,” Ms Sturgeon told MSPs on Wednesday.

"That means we can now prioritise providing a first dose to as many people as possible, rather than providing people with two doses in as short a time as possible, and that will allow more people to be vaccinated, more quickly.”

Administration of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine will begin in Scotland on January 4.

As of December 27, 92,000 people had been given their first dose of the Pfizer jab in Scotland.

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