Covid UK: NHS office staff are being given Covid vaccines BEFORE frontline doctors and nurses

NHS workers have been left ‘frustrated’ after administration staff received the Covid-19 vaccine before frontline doctors and nurses.

The British Medical Association (BMA) warned it was ‘deeply worrying’ that access to the jab was not equal across the health service, amid concerns that GPs in high risk roles are being turned away from vaccination hubs.

Writing in a letter to NHS England, its chairman Chaand Nagpaul said there was ‘no consistent approach’ to vaccinating frontline staff for the virus, and urged trusts to prioritise those who are most at risk.

The Doctors Association UK (DAUK) wrote to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to call on him to let all doctors and nurses know when they would receive the vaccine.

More than half of the 135 NHS Trusts in England are still waiting to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, two weeks after it was approved by regulators, reports The Guardian.

Only 57 – or 42 per cent – have so far taken delivery, with Department of Health officials claiming all will have received their first delivery by January 4.

At least 800,000 doses of the vaccine have so far arrived in the UK, and Boris Johnson revealed on Monday that more than half a million Britons have received their first dose.

The British Medical Association and the Doctors Association UK called for equal access to the jab amid concerns that GPs in high-risk roles are are being turned away from vaccination hubs

The British Medical Association and the Doctors Association UK called for equal access to the jab amid concerns that GPs in high-risk roles are are being turned away from vaccination hubs

The British Medical Association and the Doctors Association UK called for equal access to the jab amid concerns that GPs in high-risk roles are are being turned away from vaccination hubs

BMA chairman Chaand Nagpaul claimed there was no consistent approach to inoculating frontline staff from the virus and urged that those at most risk should be prioritised

BMA chairman Chaand Nagpaul claimed there was no consistent approach to inoculating frontline staff from the virus and urged that those at most risk should be prioritised

BMA chairman Chaand Nagpaul claimed there was no consistent approach to inoculating frontline staff from the virus and urged that those at most risk should be prioritised

At the weekend NHS office staff and those working in Boots pharmacies in north-west London were given the vaccine, while medical staff at St Bartholomew’s were told they had not been assigned a vaccination hub.  

Group treasurer Duranka Perera told the newspaper: ‘How is it right that hundreds of staff – BAME included – working in A&E, as paramedics, porters and domestics, aren’t getting top priority and are having to ring around for spare doses? 

‘We cannot repeat the errors of the first wave when so many healthcare workers were lost in the line of duty.’

NHS England and the Department of Health have been contacted for comment.

It comes amid fury that health chiefs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, western Scotland gave the Covid-19 vaccine to clerical staff before frontline nurses and doctors. 

Outraged nurses at the Scottish hospital have blown the whistle on the coronavirus ‘fiasco’ which was dubbed ‘an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff’.

They revealed that nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons had not been given the jab, while staff in medical records and estates management had been given the new vaccine first.

Health chiefs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, western Scotland, gave the new coronavirus vaccine to clerical staff before frontline nurses and doctors, it has been revealed

Health chiefs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, western Scotland, gave the new coronavirus vaccine to clerical staff before frontline nurses and doctors, it has been revealed

Health chiefs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, western Scotland, gave the new coronavirus vaccine to clerical staff before frontline nurses and doctors, it has been revealed

Outraged nurses have blown the whistle on the coronavirus 'fiasco' which was dubbed 'an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff'. They revealed that nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons had not been given the Pfizer jab

Outraged nurses have blown the whistle on the coronavirus 'fiasco' which was dubbed 'an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff'. They revealed that nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons had not been given the Pfizer jab

Outraged nurses have blown the whistle on the coronavirus ‘fiasco’ which was dubbed ‘an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff’. They revealed that nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons had not been given the Pfizer jab

A nurse insider said: ‘The events of the last two days have left me and my colleagues outraged. 

‘My nursing colleagues and I came on duty yesterday hoping that the much-awaited vaccinations would start.

‘We were astonished to find out that the management had given covid vaccines to administration and estate staff before frontline nurses and doctors.’

They added that the move went against national guidelines which say that health and social care workers, older care home residents and the over 80s should be the first to be vaccinated.   

Speaking just weeks after it was revealed that dozens of staff and patients at the RAH had been infected with Covid-19, the whistleblower added: ‘For the last nine months, the nursing staff have been in close contact with covid positive patients, putting our lives on the line everyday.

National guidelines say that health and social care workers, older care home residents and the over 80s should be the first to be vaccinated

National guidelines say that health and social care workers, older care home residents and the over 80s should be the first to be vaccinated

National guidelines say that health and social care workers, older care home residents and the over 80s should be the first to be vaccinated

‘Many nurses have become covid positive and have had to go off sick leaving us short staffed but we have carried on. Patients are our priority.

‘This is an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff.

‘We have written to senior members of the health board and government but I am afraid that this will just be swept under the carpet.’ 

A NHS Greater Glasgow spokesman said: ‘We strictly adhere to national prioritisation guidelines for the vaccine.

‘In line with this guidance and following a risk assessment, any member of staff – clinical or non-clinical – who either directly works on, or is deemed to have contact with a Covid-19 red pathway, can receive the vaccine.

‘The risk assessment also allows for high-risk, BAME and staff over the age of 65 to be vaccinated.

‘This is the arrangement we have used to offer the vaccine across all NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde sites, including the Royal Alexandra Hospital.’  

It comes amid news the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be rolled out to elderly residents in care homes with more than 50 registered beds in England over the next few weeks.  

 

The UK is leading the world in terms of Covid-19 vaccines administered per 100 people - so far giving out more than double the next most successful country, Israel

The UK is leading the world in terms of Covid-19 vaccines administered per 100 people - so far giving out more than double the next most successful country, Israel

The UK is leading the world in terms of Covid-19 vaccines administered per 100 people – so far giving out more than double the next most successful country, Israel

It follows a pilot which started last Wednesday where the jab was taken to residents and staff in a small number of care homes, believed to be seven homes.

The move was outlined at a meeting on Tuesday involving NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care and care provider representatives.

It is understood the vaccine batches are being broken down into doses of 75, and the focus over the next fortnight will be on elderly residents and staff in homes with more than 50 beds to avoid wastage.

This week’s rollout comes as new figures show the UK is leading the world in terms of Covid jabs administered.

Figures from Our World in Data show the UK has administered 0.74 doses for every 100 people in the population – more than double the next successful country, which is Israel at 0.35.

The US is currently third-highest, followed by Russia, then China and then Canada. 

Fury as clerical staff at hospital in Scotland receive Covid jab BEFORE doctors and nurses in move branded ‘a slap in the face to all frontline staff’

By Harry Howard for MailOnline

Health chiefs gave the new coronavirus vaccine to clerical staff before frontline nurses and doctors at a Scottish hospital, it has been revealed. 

Outraged nurses at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, western Scotland, have blown the whistle on the coronavirus ‘fiasco’ which was dubbed ‘an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff’.

They revealed that nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons had not been given the Pfizer jab, while staff in medical records and estates management – who do not deal with patients – had been given the new vaccine first.

Health chiefs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, western Scotland, gave the new coronavirus vaccine to clerical staff before frontline nurses and doctors, it has been revealed

Health chiefs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, western Scotland, gave the new coronavirus vaccine to clerical staff before frontline nurses and doctors, it has been revealed

Health chiefs at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley, western Scotland, gave the new coronavirus vaccine to clerical staff before frontline nurses and doctors, it has been revealed

A nurse insider said: ‘The events of the last two days have left me and my colleagues outraged. 

‘My nursing colleagues and I came on duty yesterday hoping that the much-awaited vaccinations would start.

‘We were astonished to find out that the management had given covid vaccines to administration and estate staff before frontline nurses and doctors.’

They added that the move went against national guidelines which say that health and social care workers, older care home residents and the over 80s should be the first to be vaccinated.  

‘These guidelines expressly state the frontline staff who have face-to-face contact with patients must be vaccinated as a priority,’ the insider said. 

‘So you can imagine our astonishment when we found out that clerical staff who have no contact with patients have been vaccinated.

‘Medical records staff who work in the basement and never see a patient, never mind have face-to-face contact, or estates staff, who actually work in a separate building, or medical physics staff, who repair equipment, all have been vaccinated.’

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved for use by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Product Regulatory Agency (MHRA) earlier this month.

Outraged nurses have blown the whistle on the coronavirus 'fiasco' which was dubbed 'an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff'. They revealed that nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons had not been given the Pfizer jab

Outraged nurses have blown the whistle on the coronavirus 'fiasco' which was dubbed 'an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff'. They revealed that nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons had not been given the Pfizer jab

Outraged nurses have blown the whistle on the coronavirus ‘fiasco’ which was dubbed ‘an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff’. They revealed that nurses, anaesthetists and surgeons had not been given the Pfizer jab

The vaccine is given in two doses three weeks apart and has already been given to around 500,000 Britons.

The RAH nurse spoke out as the number of Covid-19 deaths in Renfrewshire topped 300.

The devastating milestone was reached in the week to December 14 when a further 11 people lost their lives to the virus.

The death toll now stands at 306.

Overall in Scotland, more than 114,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus and there have been just over 4,000 deaths.  

Speaking just weeks after it was revealed that dozens of staff and patients at the RAH had been infected with Covid-19, the whistle blower added: ‘For the last nine months, the nursing staff have been in close contact with covid positive patients, putting our lives on the line everyday.

National guidelines say that health and social care workers, older care home residents and the over 80s should be the first to be vaccinated

National guidelines say that health and social care workers, older care home residents and the over 80s should be the first to be vaccinated

National guidelines say that health and social care workers, older care home residents and the over 80s should be the first to be vaccinated

‘Many nurses have become covid positive and have had to go off sick leaving us short staffed but we have carried on. Patients are our priority.

‘This is an absolute slap in the face to all frontline staff.

‘We have written to senior members of the health board and government but I am afraid that this will just be swept under the carpet.’

The news of the vaccine snub triggered outrage.

Scottish Greens MSP for the West of Scotland Ross Greer said: ‘Any NHS staff likely to come into contact with a covid-positive patient should be prioritised for the vaccine, whether they are clinical staff or not.

‘It is no wonder though that clinical staff, who have put their lives on the line and been repeatedly refused regular testing, are alarmed when they see others who are not working with patients be put ahead of them.

‘The health board and hospital management need to immediately explain exactly why they’ve made this decision and ensure that they are following national guidelines on how the vaccine should be rolled out.’ 

Author Marion Shoard, who has researched the Scottish health and care system for 20 years, said: ‘This situation is outrageous. 

We are still seeing hospital doctors and nurses catching covid at work and dying as a result.

‘At the same time, transmission from frontline healthcare staff could be responsible for some of the thousands of cases in which patients have caught Covid-19 while in hospital.

‘Add to this mounting concern that people are put off turning up at A&E for fear of catching the virus and so missing out on treatment even for serious conditions like a heart attack or stroke, and you see why it’s so important that vaccinating hospital doctors and nurses is of the utmost importance.’

A NHS Greater Glasgow spokesman said: ‘We strictly adhere to national prioritisation guidelines for the vaccine.

‘In line with this guidance and following a risk assessment, any member of staff – clinical or non-clinical – who either directly works on, or is deemed to have contact with a Covid-19 red pathway, can receive the vaccine.

‘The risk assessment also allows for high-risk, BAME and staff over the age of 65 to be vaccinated.

‘This is the arrangement we have used to offer the vaccine across all NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde sites, including the Royal Alexandra Hospital.’

QUESTIONS ANSWERED ON NEW COVID MUTATION: HOW DID IT HAPPEN, IS IT MORE DANGEROUS AND HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN IN THE UK?

By David Churchill

What has happened to the coronavirus to trigger such concern?

A new strain of Covid has developed which is said to spread far faster. A ‘strain’ is a new version of a virus which has genetic mutations. The new strain is a version of Sars-Cov-2, the coronavirus which causes the disease Covid-19.

It has been named VUI-202012/01. These letters and numbers stand for ‘variant under investigation’ and the month, December 2020.

What makes it so worrying?

This particular variant is defined by up to 17 changes or mutations in the coronavirus spike protein. It is the combination of some of these changes which scientists believe could make it more infectious.

It is thought they could help the virus’ spike protein latch on to human cells and gain entry more easily.

Is it certain the new variation is accelerating the spread of the virus?

No, but scientists say preliminary evidence suggests it does.

Boris Johnson said it may spread up to 70 per cent more easily than other strains of the virus, potentially driving up the ‘R rate’ – which measures how quickly the virus spreads – significantly.

On Saturday night, Mr Johnson said it could drive up the ‘R rate’ by as much as 0.4.

This would be particularly significant in areas such as Eastern England, where it is 1.4, and both London and the South East, where it is 1.3. The ‘R rate’ must remain below 1 for infections to decrease.

Is the new variant more dangerous?

Scientists don’t think so for now. When asked on Saturday night if it was more lethal than the previous strain, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said ‘the answer seems to be ‘No’, as far as we can tell at the moment’.

Yesterday Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said there was evidence of people with the new variant having higher viral loads inside them.

But she said this did not mean people would get more ill.

Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘It’s unlikely it’ll make people sicker, but it could make it harder to control.’

If it does make the virus harder to control and hospitals become overrun, it could pose new challenges.

Are mutations unusual?

No. Seasonal influenza mutates every year. Variants of Sars-Cov-2 have also been observed in other countries, such as Spain.

However, one scientific paper suggests the number and combination of changes which have occurred in this new variant is potentially ‘unprecedented’.

Most mutations observed to date are thought to have happened more slowly. Also, most changes have no effect on how easily the virus spreads.

There are already about 4,000 mutations in the spike protein gene.

What has caused the mutation?

This is still being investigated. One theory is that growing natural immunity in the UK population, which makes it harder for the virus to spread, might have forced it to adapt.

Another theory is that it has developed in chronically ill patients who have fought the virus off over a long period of time, with it then being passed onto others.

Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, yesterday said it was ‘plausible’ and ‘highly likely’ this has happened.

However, he stressed it is impossible to prove at the moment.

What evidence is there to support the latter theory?

Some evidence supporting it was spotted when samples of virus were collected from a Cambridge patient. They had been treated with convalescent plasma – blood plasma containing antibodies from a recovered patient.

It is possible the virus mutated during that treatment, developing more resistance to the antibodies. This patient died of the infection, but it’s also possible the mutation has occurred elsewhere.

A paper co-authored by Andrew Rambaut, Professor of Molecular Evolution at the University of Edinburgh, states: ‘If antibody therapy is administered after many weeks of chronic infection, the virus population may be unusually large and genetically diverse…creating suitable circumstances for the rapid fixation of multiple virus genetic changes.’

Professor Hunter added: ‘Mutation in viruses are a random event and the longer someone is infected the more likely a random event is to occur.’

What do these mutations do?

Many occur in what’s called the ‘receptor binding domain’ of the virus’ spike protein. This helps the virus latch on to human cells and gain entry. The mutations make it easier for the virus to bind to human cells’ ACE2 receptors.

It is also possible the changes help the virus avoid human antibodies which would otherwise help fight off infection.

Who detected it?

It was discovered by the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, which carries out random genetic sequencing of positive covid-19 samples.

It is a consortium of the UK’s four public health agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute and 12 academic institutions.

How long has it been in the UK and where did it start?

As of mid-December, there were more than 1,000 cases in nearly 60 different local authorities, although the true number will be higher.

They have predominantly been found in the south east of England, in Kent and London. It may now account for 60 per cent of the capital’s cases.

But it has been detected elsewhere, including in Wales and Scotland.

The two earliest samples were collected on September 20 in Kent and another the next day in London.

Why was action to tackle it not taken sooner?

Because the potentially greater transmissibility was only discovered late last week by academics.

Has it been detected anywhere else in the world?

One aspect of the new variant, known as a N501Y mutation, was circulating in Australia between June and July, in America in July and in Brazil as far back as April, according to scientists.

It is therefore unclear what role, if any, travellers carrying the virus may have had.

Dr Julian Tang, a Virologist and expert in Respiratory science at the University of Leicester, said: ‘Whether or not these viruses were brought to the UK and Europe later by travellers or arose spontaneously in multiple locations around the world – in response to human host immune selection pressures – requires further investigation.’

Another change, known as the D614G variant, has previously been detected in western Europe and North America. But it is possible that the new variant evolved in the UK.

What can I do to avoid getting the new variant?

The same as always – keeping your distance from people, washing your hands regularly, wearing a mask and abiding by the tier restrictions in your area.

Yesterday Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association, said: ‘The way in which you control the spread of the virus, including this new variant, is exactly the same. It is about continuing stringent measures. The same rules apply.’

Will the new variant reduce the effectiveness of vaccines?

More studies are needed.

Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said that until these are carried out scientists cannot be certain whether – and by how much – the new variant reduces the effectiveness of developed vaccines.

She said: ‘The vaccine induces a strong, multiple response, immune response and therefore it is unlikely that this vaccine response is going to be completely gone.’ When mutations happen it is, in theory, possible the antibodies generated by vaccines can be evaded.

But vaccines produce a wide range of antibodies that simultaneously attack the virus from different angles, making it hard for it to evade all of them at once.

Vaccines could also be tweaked to make them more effective if the new mutation does prove to be more resistant to them.

So what are the scientists doing now?

Scientists will be growing the new strain in the lab to see how it responds. This includes looking at whether it produces the same antibody response, how it reacts to the vaccine, and modelling the new strain.

It could take up to two weeks for this process to be complete. 

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