Northern Ireland news

Frontline hospital doctors 'livid' over delays to second Covid vaccine - claiming some managers got jab ahead of them

Hundreds of hospital doctors in Northern Ireland have made complaints about the delayed second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine after learning they could wait up to 10 weeks for the follow-up jab
Seanín Graham

FRONTLINE hospital doctors have expressed their fury over delays in receiving second doses of Covid vaccines - claiming some managers were prioritised ahead of them.

Consultants based in the Belfast trust told The Irish News they believe the trust and Department of Health have broken an agreement to administer the second Pfizer jab within the approved 21 days - and "compromised them" during a surge in coronavirus infections.

Sources say many A&E, ICU and respiratory medics are "livid" about the move, which they learned of in an email sent on New Year's Eve. There will now be a delay of up to 10 weeks before they receive the second jab.

One leading doctor also said the "optics" of non-clinical senior management being given the first dose a week ahead of medics has "inflamed tensions".

When asked to provide a breakdown on the number of senior administrative/managerial staff who received the Pfizer vaccine following its rollout last month, a Belfast trust spokesman said: "Unfortunately we are unable to give such a breakdown as it is not recorded in that way".

He confirmed that a total of 7,192 trust staff received their first jab by last Sunday.

The main doctors union in Northern Ireland, The British Medical Association (BMA), has also been inundated with complaints about the delay, which was agreed by the four Chief Medial Officers across the UK so that the maximum number of vulnerable people are protected.

BMA chair Dr Tom Black met with health minister Robin Swann yesterday after receiving "hundreds" of phone calls from "appalled" doctors.

He said hospital consultants as well as junior doctors are "furious" and feel there has been a "breach of trust" after consenting to have a second dose administered within three weeks.

The union chief said they had consulted with BMA experts who warned there was "no evidence or data" that "immunity persists beyond 42 days" of the first Pfizer dose.

Yesterday, a second vaccine developed by Oxford University, was rolled out for the first time in the north.

Dr Black said: "We are more than happy with the Oxford/AstraZenaca vaccine being delayed and that a second dose can be given three months later with no detriment to immunity. However, Pfizer themselves say their booster should be given after 21 days because there is no evidence of it working in any other way.

"My last three days, from morning to midnight, I have dealt with hundreds and hundreds of complaints from doctors who are appalled. They feel there is a breach of trust and they've lost confidence in the system. They're walking around with appointment cards to get a vaccine in three weeks. We're now looking at the legal implications of this.

"The Pfizer vaccine was to be used for two groups, care home residents and staff as well as frontline healthcare workers - including doctors, nurses, cleaners and porters. The care residents and staff will get their second doses within the approved time but frontline healthcare workers won't. We were always told to follow the science - we're doing that except when it comes to the frontline."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said it was acting on UK expert and regulatory advice which stated there was "no evidence" of immunity from the first dose Pfizer vaccine "declining after 21 days" and that it was 90 per cent effective.

"Everyone in Northern Ireland including front line health and social care staff who are offered a vaccination against will be booked for a second dose within the timescales recommended by JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccintation and Immunisation)," she said.

"The health, wellbeing and safety of frontline health and social care staff is of paramount importance at this most challenging of times in the health service. Therefore we will continue to protect as many as possible within as short a timescale as possible whilst strictly following the guidance of regulators and expert advisory groups."

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